Prabowo Subianto, presidential candidate and Indonesia’s defense minister, casts his ballot at a polling station in Bojong Koneng village, West Java, Indonesia, on Feb. 14, 2024. Credit – Dimas Ardian—Bloomberg/Getty Images

Prabowo Subianto, a former general who was once banned from entering the United States because of alleged human rights abuses, looks set to become the next President of Indonesia, according to preliminary results hours after the Southeast Asian country of 270 million people voted on Wednesday in the world’s largest single-day election.

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Despite some weather concerns, election officials said voting went smoothly across the more than 800,000 polling stations throughout the vast archipelago that spans thousands of islands. According to unofficial counts by independent agencies, Prabowo is on track to win with nearly 60% of the vote, while authorities are expected to validate the results in the coming weeks.

The decisive victory comes as little surprise: While opinion polls had for much of the campaign season predicted the election would go to a run-off between Prabowo and one of his two rival candidates—either independent former Jakarta Governor Anies Baswedan or former Central Java Governor Ganjar Pranowo from the ruling Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P)—early February saw the tide turning in Prabowo’s favor with late forecasts suggesting he would likely secure a majority of votes to win outright.

But it also forebodes a fresh era of uncertainty for Indonesia’s fledgling democracy.

Prabowo rose to prominence as a military commander during the rule of his then father-in-law, the late former President Suharto, who ruled the country from 1967 to 1998. Under Suharto’s repressive regime, Prabowo was known as one of the authoritarian leader’s chief enforcers, implicated in the abduction and alleged torture of dissident activists. Following his 1998 ouster, Prabowo turned to business, amassing a significant fortune before venturing back into politics. In 2008, he co-founded the nationalist, right-wing Gerindra Party, which he currently leads. He also ran for the presidency in 2014 and 2019, but lost to incumbent President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo both times, after which he joined Jokowi’s administration as Defense Minister.

The 72-year-old’s newfound success, however, is tainted with controversy. For one, his vice presidential running mate Gibran Rakabuming is Jokowi’s son, whose candidacy was only approved after a contentious ruling by the country’s constitutional court, which was headed by Jokowi’s now-dismissed brother-in-law.

The 2024 presidential race was largely seen as a referendum on the legacy of Jokowi, who, though he did not officially endorse any candidate, made no secret of his preferred pick amid a wider attempt to retain influence and build his own political dynasty.

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Recent weeks have also seen mounting, albeit unproven, allegations of Jokowi-backed electoral rigging in favor of the Prabowo camp. Over the weekend, a documentary titled Dirty Vote was posted on YouTube that detailed alleged election fraud by the Jokowi administration; it racked up millions of views within a day and became the top trending topic on X. The allegations in the video were denied by Prabowo’s campaign, but Jokowi’s former vice president Jusuf Kalla told media that “most of it is indeed the truth.”

As votes were tallied on Wednesday, Prabowo’s opponents alluded to similar concerns about election integrity. Anies told Al Jazeera Wednesday after the polls closed that he could not yet tell if the election had been free and fair, while former President and PDI-P chair Megawati Sukarnoputri urged the public to monitor for potential fraud.

All eyes in the country—including Jokowi’s—will now be watching to see if Prabowo, a former Jokowi rival, will honor his campaign promises to continue his predecessor’s populist policies, or if he will give in to his authoritarian tendencies.

But either way, experts tell TIME, whereas Jokowi’s election 10 years ago was hailed as a triumph of democracy in the world’s fourth most-populous country, Prabowo’s rise coincides with a dangerous plummeting of public trust in the country’s political system.

“The procedural side of delivering elections [in Indonesia] has always been very good and there’s always been high public trust in it,” Ian Wilson, a senior lecturer specializing in Indonesian politics at Australia’s Murdoch University, tells TIME. “But this time, a lot of people are very suspicious about this process on all sides.”

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