Despite court appeal, Widodo confident of becoming Indonesia’s next president – Nikkei Asian Review


Trade unionists, who backed Prabowo Subianto's Presidential bid, await the arrival of Subianto outside Indonesia's Constitutional Court last Friday July 25 (Photo: Simon Roughneen)

Trade unionists, who backed Prabowo Subianto’s Presidential bid, await the arrival of Subianto outside Indonesia’s Constitutional Court last Friday July 25 (Photo: Simon Roughneen)

JAKARTA — A confident Joko Widodo is pushing ahead with plans to be Indonesia’s president, apparently unfazed by the opposition’s bid to overturn the July 9 election result.

     On Monday, which was the festival of Eid al-Fitr and the end of the annual Muslim fasting season, Widodo said at a prayer meeting at Jakarta City Hall that he would soon resign as the city’s governor to prepare for his October inauguration as Indonesia’s president. Last week, he launched a crowd-pleasing online poll for Indonesians to nominate members of his cabinet, continuing a style of public outreach that made him popular as mayor of Solo and as Jakarta’s governor.

     Since he was officially declared the winner of Indonesia’s presidential election on July 22, Widodo and the vice president-elect, Jusuf Kalla, have talked up the need for consensus.

     “Indonesia should be united again as a huge nation. We are all brothers and sisters,” Widodo said Monday.

     Anies Baswedan, Widodo’s campaign spokesman, told the Nikkei Asian Review that he was confident that the Constitutional Court would rule on Aug. 21 that Widodo won with 53.15% of the vote.

“We are fully confident that the outcome will show that we won the election,” said Basdewan, who is also President of Jakarta’s Paramadina University. 

     The losing candidate, Prabowo Subianto, and running mate Hatta Rajasa, filed an appeal on Friday evening, claiming widespread fraud. Subianto, a former general, released a 23-minute Youtube video the same day accusing the Election Commission of siding with Widodo. “Agreeing to the decision means that we agree to violation — a lie,” he said.

     Subianto and Hatta greeted a crowd of supporters who demonstrated for several hours outside the court building also on that day, as their lawyers delivered three bundles of documents aiming to prove that the Subianto camp did not lose by almost 8.5 million votes.

     It seems unlikely, however, that the court would allow a revote at the 52,000 polling stations at which Subianto alleges that voter fraud took place. Widodo spokesman Anies Basdewan said that it is Subianto’s “legal right” to file a case.

     Mohammad Mahfud, a former chief justice, resigned from the Subianto campaign last week. He told journalists that “proving fraud in 200,000 votes is just impossible, let alone with 8 million votes.”

     Other allegations made by Subianto, such as the infiltration of the Election Commission’s website by foreign hackers, were rejected by Indonesia’s police.

Party problems?

Despite tension over the election results, the nation was jubilant Monday as tens of millions of Indonesians took to the roads, skies and seas to mark the end of Ramadan. Both Widodo and Subianto attended a reception hosted by outgoing President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, whose Democrat Party endorsed Subianto’s presidential bid and will, as things stand, form part of the parliamentary opposition should Widodo be confirmed as president.

     Yudhoyono has backed the Election Commission, however, despite Subianto’s claim that it is biased.

     Later on Monday, Widodo also met with Megawati Sukarnoputri, a former president and head of Widodo’s party, the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P). The PDI-P will be the biggest party in Indonesia’s incoming legislature, but it only won just under 19% of the vote in April’s house elections, which means that Widodo will not have a parliamentary majority. The six parties that backed the Subianto-Hatta campaign hold over 60% of seats, presenting a formidable opposition.

     There is speculation, however, that the opposition coalition will break apart. Hatta did not show up for several campaign press conferences, including one on the day the election result was announced. Moreover, Kalla, the vice president-elect, is a stalwart supporter of Golkar, the second biggest party in parliament. Golkar was one of the six parties supporting Subianto, but its leader, businessman Aburizal Bakrie, could be vulnerable to a leadership challenge in the coming months because Kalla still has many supporters within the party.

Working on unity

Jeffrey Neilson, an Indonesia expert at the University of Sydney, said that support for Widodo from the Democrat Party and Golkar, if it comes, could help push through reforms, as well as upgrade Indonesia’s infrastructure while cutting a costly but popular fuel subsidy.

     At the same time, Indonesia’s tradition of behind-the-door bargaining could mean that a wider coalition will give fresh headaches to a Widodo presidency.

     Legislation is often negotiated during marathon deal-making sessions by back-room committees rather than through transparent house debates. It is a way of doing things that seems in line with the fourth principle of pancasila, the national political philosophy, which calls for “democracy guided by the inner wisdom of unanimity arising out of the deliberations among representatives.”

     “While this will inevitably involve a degree of horse-trading that will weaken his ability to govern unilaterally, this is the political reality of the split and fractured parliament,” Neilson said.

     In an attempt to show unity, Widodo and Kalla have tried to popularize their new three finger salute. The number of digits raised is based on the ballot paper, on which the Subianto-Hatta ticket was listed number one and theirs number two.

     After Eid, known as Lebaran in Indonesia, Widodo said everyone should return to their normal activities and that numbers should no longer divide the people.

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