Indonesia: Jokowi wins amid challenge to result

July 27, 2014
Joko Widodo at an election campaign rally.

Data Brainanta is one of quite a few Indonesian socialists who have been supporting the successful presidential bid of Joko Widodo, or “Jokowi” as he is popularly known.

So he was happy when Indonesia's electoral commission (KPU) finally confirmed on July 22 that Jokowi had defeated his sole contender, the sacked former Suharto-era general Prabowo Subianto, by 57% to 43% of the nearly 130 million direct votes cast on July 9.

“The official result had been anticipated a week before when Jokowi's lead was confirmed by data taken from the majority of polling station recaps [official count reports] by volunteers. Even earlier, several pollsters' 'quick counts' had predicted his victory,” Brainanta told Green Left Weekly.

“Back on July 9, things got a little tense when Prabowo also claimed victory based on his own quick count. We were worried that the actual votes would be manipulated as they were transferred from the polling stations up to the higher administration level.

“This was seen as a real possibility since the current president [Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono] and his party threw their last minute support for Prabowo before the election day.

“This opened up more avenues for possible state apparatus manipulation of the result, which actually did happen in quite an organised, but very localised, way.

“However, pro-Jokowi volunteers, of which there were tens of thousands if not more, managed to minimise the cheating by blowing it up in the media, particularly social media.

“The level of public participation in monitoring this election is unprecedented. This has, I believe, neutralised the state apparatus's ability to significantly manipulate the election result.”

Prabowo 'withdrawal' stunt

Then, on July 22, just hours before the official result was to be announced, Prabowo made another dramatic, probably desperate, move.

He announced that he was “withdrawing from the election process”. His electoral observers staged a walkout of the electoral commission's (KPU) counting room where the final tally was being counted.

Dr Vannessa Hearman, a lecturer in Indonesian Studies at the University of Sydney, told GLW: “There was a question mark as to what he meant by withdrawing from the process and what implications this might have on the KPU process.”

It turned out Prabowo wasn't withdrawing from the presidential contest.

“To their credit, the KPU pressed on, not intimidated by this strange turn of events.

“A day earlier, President SBY had dismissed Army Chief of Staff General Budiman, allegedly for political involvement in the recent elections.

“It seems that Budiman and Armed Forces Chief General Moeldoko had differences of opinion regarding the role of the military in the recent elections and Budiman was accused of being pro-Jokowi.

“Combine these two events and there was the possibility of some kind of political instability in Jakarta.”

Another Australian academic following the Indonesian politics closely is Dr Ian Wilson, a research fellow at the Asia Research Centre at Murdoch University.

Wilson has researched links between Prabowo and several criminal gangs and anti-Communist militias. Some of the leaders of these groups, including the notorious preman (gangster) Hercules Rosario Marcal, had indicated before the election that they would not accept a Prabowo defeat.

“It is at the point when Jokowi is officially declared the winner of the presidential elections that these gangs may be used to create disturbances,” Wilson told GLW in an interview before the official result was announced.

“Prabowo is not a play-by-the-rules guy. He's put everything on the line for the presidency. He's spent millions of dollars over the past decade, so it is possible that they might be mobilised.

“One thing that I found doing these interviews with Hercules, in prison, and his deputies, is that they were spreading rumours that [Jokowi's party] PDIP [Indonesian Democratic Party-Struggle] was run by Christians and Communists.

“He said if Jokowi became president then he would bring in a doomsday scenario straight out of some of the anti-Communists hysteria that justified the 1965 massacres. These preman deputies seemed to believe this, so they might cause disturbances.

“At the same time I don't think this will work. They couldn't pull it off.”

Partly to defuse potential disturbances, Jokowi urged his supporters to hold off celebrating his win ― even on the day of the official announcement. He even asked his supporters to refrain from wearing the checked shirts that were a trademark of his election campaign.

There was a relatively modest celebration on July 23 by about 10,000 Jokowi supporters around Jakarta's iconic National Monument (“Monas”) that commemorates the 1945 proclamation of independence. Jokowi briefly addressed the gathering, Brainanta said.

More celebrations might take place once the Constitutional Court pronounces on Prabowo's appeal but this process could take up to a month.

Constitutional Court appeal

Informed observers say it is very unlikely that Prabowo's legal appeal will succeed. His campaign team is demanding a re-vote in more than 50,000 booths, mainly in the populous Jakarta area, at which they say serious irregularities occurred on election day.

In an article in New Mandala, Liam Gammon, a Phd student at the Australian National University’s College of Asia and the Pacific, the Prabowo team claimed in a media conference on July 22 that:

• Total number of those using their voting rights not the same as the number of ballots used and number of valid and invalid votes, in as many as 28,283 booths.
• Total ballots which were used were not the same as the total number of valid and invalid votes, in as many as 9,617 booths.
• Number of those using their voting rights based on the Additional Permanent Voter Roll/absentee voters greater than total number of those on said lists, in as many as 11,090 booths.
• Number of voters using their voting rights from the Special Additional Voter Roll/those voting with only ID cards, other ID or passports greater than those said list, in as many as 20,158 booths.
• Ticket number 1. [i.e. Prabowo-Hatta] did not get any votes, despite the presence of [their own] scrutineers, at as many as 282 booths.

However, he added that little evidence was presented to back these assertions.

“It looks like the election results will be delayed by Prabowo’s allegations of electoral fraud, which will need to be heard by the Constitutional Court within a month,” Hearman told GLW.

In the meantime, Jokowi's progressive supporters and volunteers are focusing on defending what they see as a chance for significantly more democratic reform.

[This is part one of a two-part series. You can read the full version at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal. Dr Vannessa Hearman will be the guest speaker at a Green Left forum in Sydney on Tuesday August 5 which will discuss what this election means for the struggle for democracy in Australia's largest neighbour. More details here.]
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