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Polls have closed in Indonesia with the world’s largest Muslim democracy electing a president, a parliament and local authorities.

Some 192 million people were eligible to vote in the elections, with 800,000 polling stations across the archipelago’s 18,000 islands.

The incumbent president Joko Widodo voted earlier and said he was optimistic about the results.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo and his wife Iriana speak to journalists after he cast his ballot
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Indonesian President Joko Widodo and his wife Iriana speak to journalists after he cast his ballot

The former furniture salesman is the first president from outside the Jakarta elite.

Just over 20 years ago, the fall of Suharto brought about the end of decades of dictatorship, the darkest days of which saw ruthless crackdowns on opponents of those in power.

Mr Widodo’s challenger is Prabowo Subianto, a special forces general during the era of Suharto’s military dictatorship.

An Indonesian election worker dressed as a ghost welcomes voters in Jakarta
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An Indonesian election worker dressed as a ghost welcomes voters in Jakarta

An unofficial count at the half way stage put Mr Widodo and his running mate, conservative cleric Ma’ruf Amin, 13 percentage points ahead.

At stake is the future direction of a country that is growing rapidly and is becoming an increasingly important economic power in the region.

Some investors are worried that the appeal for votes amid the growing influence of conservative Islam will translate into populist policy.

Mr Widodo, a moderate Muslim from Java, picked Islamic cleric Mr Amin as his vice president nominee, after a smear campaign and hoax stories accused him of being anti-Islam, a communist or too close to China, all politically damaging in Indonesia.

An Indonesian election worker dressed as Batman in Surabaya
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An Indonesian election worker dressed as Batman in Surabaya

Mr Prabowo has links to some hardline Islamist groups and his running mate is business entrepreneur Sandiaga Uno.

The opposition has also claimed to have uncovered data irregularities affecting millions on the electoral rolls and has vowed to take legal action or use “people power” if its complaints are not resolved.

Monitors from 33 countries have been invited to observe to make sure the election is fair and carried out according to the rules.

Presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto waves to a crowd after voting
Image:
Presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto waves to a crowd after voting

Many of the thousands of volunteers taking part in the process dressed up to mark the festive nature of the occasion, in a celebration of the opportunity to vote.

Voters were allowed to cast their votes for an eight-hour period across a country that stretches more than 3,000 miles (5,000km) and three time zones from its western to eastern tips, underscoring the Herculean logistical task.

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Unhatched birds can warn other eggs in nest of danger by vibrating | Science & Tech News

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Unhatched baby seabirds can warn each other of impending danger by vibrating within their shells, scientists have discovered.

A study of yellow-legged gull embryos, found they reacted to warning calls from a parent and even passed on the message to siblings who had not heard the call.

The researchers collected gull eggs and divided them into groups of three.

A week before hatching, two of the three eggs in each nest were temporarily removed and exposed to a recording of a predator alarm call.

The noise was delivered four times a day at random intervals for three minutes at a time until hatching.

The third egg from each group remained in the nest in silence.

All three eggs were then reunited and left to hatch.

It was found the embryos responded to the external alarm calls by vibrating more.

This information appeared to be passed on to the third egg which had not been directly exposed to the sounds and it then mimicked the vibrations.

Experts from the Animal Ecology Group at the University of Vigo in Spain discovered all the chicks underwent genetic changes that delayed hatch time.

There was also evidence of increased production of stress hormones which is known to make birds more aware of their surroundings after hatching.

The findings were published in the journal, Nature Ecology and Evolution.

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Bali arrests: Shackled Australians facing jail over ‘cocaine use’ | World News

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Two Australian men have been paraded in front of the media a week after being arrested in Bali on suspicion of cocaine use and possession.

Indonesian police are preparing to charge the pair and are currently searching for a third suspect after a series of drug raids in the village of Canggu, a popular nightclub area on the island of Bali.

The two men, who have been named as William Cabantong, 35, and David Van Iersel, 38, were led out in front of the media in hand and foot shackles, alongside local drug suspects.

Police acted on a tip-off, and said they found 1.12g of cocaine in the pockets of one of the men, as well as drug equipment including a set of broken scales.

The men bought 2g of cocaine for three million rupiahs (£172), according to police.

The pair have undergone days of interrogation and tests while in prison. Police say a blood test revealed that both Mr Cabantong and Mr Van Iersel were cocaine users.

Denpasar police chief Ruddi Setiawan told reporters: “We advise tourists, locals, and foreigners to come here for a holiday, don’t come to have a drugs party or to use drugs.

“We will take firm action if any foreigners resist. We will not be lenient.”

The men are expected to be charged under Indonesian law 112, legislation which covers drug possession. The punishment carries a possible jail term of between four and 12 years, as well as a fine of 800 million rupiah (£45,000).

The men hid their faces as they stood with others arrested on drug charges
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The men hid their faces as they stood with others arrested on drug charges

It is understood that both Mr Cabantong and Mr Van Iersel worked as nightclub promoters whilst they lived in Australia before they travelled to Bali.

Indonesia is known for its strong penalties against those who commit drug offences. In 2017, Indonesian President Joko Widodo told police officers to shoot drug traffickers.

He said: “Be firm, especially to foreign drug dealers who enter the country and resist arrest. Shoot them because we indeed are in a narcotics emergency position now.”

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Drug-resistant malaria strains spread through south east Asia | World News

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Strains of drug-resistant malaria are becoming more dominant in Vietnam, Laos and northern Thailand after spreading rapidly from Cambodia.

Malaria is caused by parasites which are carried by mosquitoes and spread through their blood-sucking bites.

And scientists have discovered a growing number of cases where the parasite has mutated making it resistant to drugs.

“We discovered (it) had spread aggressively, replacing local malaria parasites, and had become the dominant strain in Vietnam, Laos and northeastern Thailand,” said Roberto Amato, from the Wellcome Sanger Institute.

Malaria can be successfully treated with medicines if it is caught early enough, but resistance to anti-malarial drugs is growing in many parts of the world, especially in south east Asia.

The first-line treatment for malaria in many parts of Asia in the last decade has been a combination of dihydroartemisinin and piperaquine, also known as DHA-PPQ.

Researchers found in previous work that a strain of malaria had evolved and spread across Cambodia between 2007 and 2013 that was resistant to both drugs.

This latest research, published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases journal, found it has crossed borders and tightened its grip.

“The speed at which these resistant malaria parasites have spread in south east Asia is very worrying,” said Olivo Miotto, who co-led the work.

“Other drugs may be effective at the moment but the situation is extremely fragile and this study highlights that urgent action is needed.”

Almost 220 million people were infected with malaria in 2017, according to World Health Organisation estimates, and the disease killed 400,000 of them.

The vast majority of cases and deaths are among babies and children in sub-Saharan Africa.

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