After a tense election campaign marred by relentless lies and smears, the fate of Indonesia is now in the hands of the General Elections Commission (KPU), which on July 22 will announce whether the country’s seventh president will be Joko ‘Jokowi’ Widodo or ex-general Prabowo Subianto.
Quick counts by credible polling agencies show Jokowi won the July 9 election by about 5%, but a handful of less credible agencies awarded a slender victory to Prabowo, who has claimed victory and insisted that losing is not an option.
Indonesians must now wait for the KPU and its regional branches to count up the tallies from the country’s more than 478,000 polling stations. There are widespread fears that KPU members could be bribed to manipulate data, resulting in the election going to the losing contestant. Some polling stations were run by Prabowo supporters and did not have any observers from Jokowi’s team present to scrutinize vote counts.
The KPU does not have a great record of integrity. Many of its members have been jailed for corruption. Complaints about electoral violations should be directed to the Elections Supervisory Agency (Bawaslu), which also does not enjoy a stellar reputation.
The Election Organization Ethics Council (DKPP) recently declared Indonesia’s April 9 general election as the worst in the country’s history due to widespread cheating. No less than 98 staff of KPU and Bawaslu branches were sacked after being convicted of violations.
DKPP chairman Jimly Asshidique feared that further infractions would occur during the presidential election. He said many civil servants and heads of regions were found to have meddled in elections, but the Council cannot dismiss them.
The Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) has warned the KPU and Bawaslu not to collude with any contestant trying to buy victory in the presidential election. “This matter affects the entire nation. Do not mess with the people’s fate. The Commission does not sleep,” said KPK spokesman Johan Budi.
There were many reports of vote-buying on election day, with people receiving Rp.20,000 to Rp.50,000 to choose a particular candidate. Such bribes are known as “dawn raids” because they are handed out early in the morning. Astonishingly, Prabowo on July 6 told his supporters they could accept “dawn raid” money – as long as they voted for him.
Four polling agencies whose quick counts gave victory to Prabowo are now being audited by the Ethics Board of the Indonesian Survey and Public Opinion Association, which is seeking to determine whether there was any manipulation of figures.
There were some interesting results from the quick counts. Jokowi won at the local polling stations of a few prominent Prabowo supporters, including musician Ahmad Dhani and former reformist Amien Rais. Meanwhile, Prabowo scored the most votes at a special jail for corruption felons in Bandung.
Prabowo is still being supported by TV networks owned by his backers, most notably Aburizal Bakrie’s tvOne, which has become a laughing stock on social media.
The presidential campaign was the dirtiest Indonesia has ever experienced, with most of the mud being slung at Jokowi. The “black campaigns” by Prabowo’s supporters included using a photo of a dead or dying woman and falsely claiming she had been beaten up by Jokowi’s “anarchist, communist” supporters. There were also heavy overtones of religious bullying, such as claims that Prabowo is a better Muslim and therefore enjoys divine backing.
Those who took a stand against the bullying were punished. Raymond Rondonuwu, a producer for RCTI network’s Seputar Indonesia news program, was transferred to a research division after he refused to broadcast what he described as a “baseless” report that alleged Jokowi’s team had conspired with the KPU. RCTI is part of the MNC Media Group owned by Hary Tanoesoedibjo, who supports Prabowo.
After the winner is declared by the KPU, the loser can then challenge the result at the Constitutional Court, whose former chief Akil Mochtar was recently sentenced to life imprisonment for taking bribes to fix numerous disputed regional elections. Given the nationwide scrutiny, it will likely be easier to steal the presidential election via the KPU.
The incumbent chairman of the KPU is Husni Kamil Manik. President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who will step down in October, can go out in glory if he guides the KPU to make an honest decision. Or he can end his rule in ignominy if he allows the election result to be stolen.