9 July 2014
Last updated at 06:16
The race between Prabowo Subianto (L) and Joko Widodo (R) is seen as too close to call
About 190 million registered voters are casting ballots in for the president of Indonesia, the world’s third largest democracy.
They are choosing between Joko Widodo, the governor of Jakarta, and Prabowo Subianto, an ex-army general.
Opinion polls so far have suggested that it will be a very tight race.
Mr Widodo, also known as Jokowi, appeared to be leading in opinion polls early on, but that margin narrowed as Mr Subianto gained ground.
Commentators say undecided voters will have a significant impact on results. About one-fifth of Indonesians fell into this category in late June surveys.
‘Respect the choice’
The first polls opened at 07:00 local time on Friday (22:00 GMT on Thursday) in the east of the country. Jakarta and the island of Java began voting two hours later at 07:00 in their time zone (0000 GMT).
Voting began first in eastern parts of Indonesia, which has three time zones
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30% will be first-time voters at
479,183 polling stations on
8,000 inhabited islands across Indonesia and overseas
Turn-out was expected to be high across the nation
Outgoing President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono cannot stand for another term as the constitution has a two-term limit. After casting his ballot, he urged all parties to respect the poll result.
“Our democracy is at a relatively mature state, and our people enjoy the freedom to choose,” the outgoing leader said.
“Therefore, I hereby urge all the leaders and political elites in this country to respect the rights of the people, respect the freedom of the people to choose their leader.”
Mr Widodo, the one-time front-runner from the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), is a popular figure with the public.
He is supported by young people in both urban and rural areas who see him as a clean politician in a country beset by corruption.
Alice Budisatrijo, BBC News, Jakarta:
A steady stream of people have been coming in to a polling station in the crowded Menteng neighbourhood in Jakarta. The population is so dense that there are four polling stations within a 300m radius.
Officials were not quite ready at 07:00 local time (23:00 GMT) when the booths were supposed to open. But early voters waited patiently as many people in the football-mad country stayed up all night watching the Germany-Brazil game.
Today’s turn-out is expected to be high as this is a contest that has generated an unprecedented enthusiasm about the country’s future leader. While the two candidates’ visions for the country sound similar, their drastically different personalities have captivated and divided the nation.
The test for Indonesia’s democracy will be when the results are announced. Patience and tolerance may be in shorter supply.
But critics say he lacks experience in national politics and international relations.
He is supported by Indonesia’s most popular Islamic Party, the National Awakening Party (PKB), and the National Democrat Party (NasDem).
Mr Subianto, from the Great Indonesia Movement Party (Gerindra), is seen as a convincing campaigner and a decisive man with good knowledge of defence, because of his military background.
He has, however, been dogged by allegations of human rights abuses committed during former dictator Suharto’s regime, which ended in 1998.
In the final days of Suharto’s rule, the unit which he commanded is accused of kidnapping, torturing and killing activists protesting against Suharto.
Mr Subianto is supported by Golkar, which is Indonesia’s second largest party. He is also endorsed by the Democratic Party (Demokrat) of current leader Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.
Both campaigns have used nationalistic rhetoric on the economy, corruption and other domestic issues such as infrastructure and social security, but they have been less vocal on detailed policies on job creation and boosting economic growth.
The poll, taking place across hundreds of island, is a major logistical challenge
Ballot boxes have been ferried to remote islands in speedboats and sent by helicopters to far-flung hamlets
Ahead of the vote, election officials delivered ballot boxes to polling stations around the country, ferrying them to Indonesia’s numerous islands by speedboat, carrying them on horseback along mountain paths and dropping them off at remote hamlets with helicopters and small planes.
Meanwhile in Jakarta the authorities have deployed 22,300 policemen to keep the peace, reports say.
The official result will be announced on 21-22 July, but independent and unofficial poll counts will be provided later in the day on Wednesday and are considered accurate.
The new president will be inaugurated on 20 October and will have to appoint a cabinet within two weeks.
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