Jokowi reels, as Prabowo appeals – The Edge Review

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Indonesian presidential winner and loser have had a bumpy week

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Inside Indonesia's Constitutional Court as Prabowo Subianto appeals election result (Photo: Simon Roughneen)

Inside Indonesia’s Constitutional Court as Prabowo Subianto appeals election result (Photo: Simon Roughneen)

JAKARTA – After a winning campaign jazzed up by a hopeful vibe not seen since Indonesians ousted longtime dictator Suharto in 1998, ushering in a democratic era, some of Indonesian President-elect Joko Widodo’s more idealistic supporters had a bucket of political ice water sloshed over them last week.

Joko’s “transition team” – a brain trust of politicians and business leaders given a temporary office in Menteng, a posh neighbourhood in central Jakarta, in order to plan the new administration – included none other than a former intelligence chief linked to the 2004 murder of human rights campaigner Munir Said Thalib – allegations the ex-spook has always denied.

The appointment of AM Hendropriyono is jarring, given that Joko, commonly referred to by his nickname “Jokowi,” ran on a record based on clean government in his roles as mayor of Solo and Jakarta Governor. His much-touted lack of Suharto-era New Order baggage – a unique selling point for a would-be president – was a keynote of his campaign.

With that in mind, “The Butcher of Lampung,” as Hendropriyono became known after the army killed dozens of villagers in the region in 1989, is hardly the sort of epithet many supporters had in mind when thinking of likely candidates to advise the reformist president-elect.

Discussing Joko’s now controversial appointment, Munir’s mother said last week, “this is about whether he is a leader of character or a liar.” Munir, founder of a prominent Jakarta human rights organisation who had represented the bereaved Lampung villagers, was poisoned onboard a Garuda Airlines flight a decade ago.

The transition team is chaired by former industry and trade minister Rini Mariani Soemarno Soewandi and has been tasked with coming up with policies for Joko’s administration and suggesting cabinet ministers.

Joko is due to take office after current President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono ends his decade in office in October – that is, unless the defeated candidate Prabowo Subianto, who has challenged the election results, can prove to the Constitutional Court that the election was fraudulent. A binding decision is due by August 21.

Based on court hearings so far, that seems unlikely. After a farcical opening, when judges criticised the disparity between the claims made by the defeated ticket and the evidence they presented, it did not get much better in recent days.

A Prabowo witness, Yanuar Arif Wibowo of the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS), an Islamic party allied with Prabowo, claimed that the legal team had identified instances of vote-rigging in 48,164 polling stations, meaning that over 20 million votes could be called into question, according to the Prabowo side. But where was the proof?

“First, find out how many voters were on the [voting lists], then how many used their voting rights, then how many cast legal votes, then how many cast illegal votes, and finally, how many votes went for Prabowo-Hatta and how many votes went for Jokowi-Kalla,” the court told Yanuar, after little of substance was produced to back up the claims of cheating.

Another witness, when asked to back up supposed irregularities, could only cite a local newspaper report that showed, instead, local officials declaring their happiness at Joko’s win. More compelling, on Tuesday, a witness from Papua claimed that there was no voting in two districts of Paniai regency, but that subsequently when the provincial tallies were being done, results from the districts somehow appeared.

On Tuesday and Wednesday, judges asked the election commission, or KPU in Indonesian, why it did not accept Prabowo’s request to postpone the July 22 announcement of the results. Commissioner Ida Budhiati replied that everyone else who was consulted – including the Indonesian parliament – were happy to proceed with finalising the result.

Discussing the Prabowo allegations, Commissioner Nelson Simanjuntak – a member of the election supervisory agency known by its Indonesian acronym, BAWASLU – told The Edge Review that “what was alleged was exaggerated, according to our surveillance.”

Even if Prabowo got his way and a re-vote of sorts were ordered, it might not save much face for the former head of Indonesia’s special forces. A survey by polling group the Indonesian Survey Circle (LSI) showed that a re-run would see the Prabowo ticket win just 30 per cent of the vote.

Another post-election survey, this one by Saiful Mujani Research and Consulting (SMRC), showed 48 per cent of Prabowo voters accepting the legitimacy of the election, with a majority happy with the performance of the election commission. According to the survey, only 4 per cent of Prabowo’s supporters believe that there was fraud on the scale alleged by Prabowo himself.

“His credibility among even his own supporters will decrease,” SMRC’s Djayadi Hanan told The Edge Review, reflecting on what the survey findings could mean for Prabowo, if the former general persists in challenging the election outcome.

Outside the Constitutional Court, a few hundred diehards have been spending their days chanting pro-Prabowo slogans and denouncing the election commission, which Prabowo has accused of fraud. The atmosphere among the gathering has been surly, with Prabowo supporters threatening to kidnap the head of the election commission – the fulminations and jeremiads surely egged on by the often conspiratorial rhetoric coming from the Prabowo side.

“Fuck you, American,” was the greeting offered by one supporter, middle finger extended, when this correspondent was making his way from the street outside into the court building. When I pointed out that I was not from the United States, the protestor – wearing a Ralph Lauren T-shirt with Old Glory stitched onto the middle – looked somewhat embarrassed.

The sheepishness only lasted a couple of seconds, however, before the protestor, who would not give his name, stirred up enough chutzpah to declare – “Fuck America, steal all our mining.”

Riot police shields outside Indonesia's Constitutional Court (Photo: SImon Roughneen)

Riot police shields outside Indonesia’s Constitutional Court (Photo: SImon Roughneen)

Commissioner Nelson Simanjuntak – a member of the election supervisory agency known by its Indonesian acronym, BAWASLU – told The Edge Review that “what was alleged was exaggerated, according to our surveillance.” (Photo:  Simon Roughneen)

Commissioner Nelson Simanjuntak – a member of the election supervisory agency known by its Indonesian acronym, BAWASLU – told The Edge Review that “what was alleged was exaggerated, according to our surveillance.” (Photo: Simon Roughneen)

Boxes of evidence arriveat the Constitutional Court on Jakarta (Photo: Simon Roughneen)

Boxes of evidence arriveat the Constitutional Court on Jakarta (Photo: Simon Roughneen)

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