Two winners, no concessions in Indonesia

JULY 11 — The bizarre turn of events following Wednesday’s election in Indonesia seems like a natural progression of two months of rancorous and turbulent campaigning.

At the time I’m writing this (a little over 24 hours since the ballot was closed), Indonesia has two presidents-elect, based on their own assertions. By all logic, however, only one should have the right to claim victory.

Shortly after the election, at least eight quick counts by reputable survey agencies called the Joko Widodo and Jusuf Kalla pair as the winners of the election by a five per cent margin over their opponents Prabowo Subianto and Hatta Rajasa. That’s about 52 per cent over 47 per cent of some 190 million voters.

But Prabowo has refused to concede, citing quick counts from four survey agencies that say he won the race. Only five television stations owned by his political allies Aburizal Bakrie and Hary Tanoesoedibjo aired these markedly different quick counts.

Both candidates have given their own victory speeches on the same day. Jokowi spoke to thousands of his supporters in a park on Wednesday afternoon, while Prabowo talked on TVOne, which is owned by Golkar Party chairman Bakrie.

But while Jokowi’s speech was victorious and expressed great relief – even showing his capacity of being a statesman by acknowledging and thanking his opponent – Prabowo’s was combative.  

“This is a victory for the entire Indonesian people… That came about through participation, not mobilisation,” said Jokowi to his supporters, who later took to the street in downtown Jakarta to express their delight.

“People who were aware of their rights and obligations, and not those who were intimidated. People who sincerely worked without strings attached, not those who were tempted by promises and positions,” he added.

A few hours later, Prabowo appeared indignant in a TV show planned to celebrate his victory.

“The battle is not over,” he said to the rousing applause of his supporters in the audience. “Real warriors don’t need to show off their power.... Don’t think we can be sold out! Don’t think we can accept lies!”

He continued by reminding people that their power cannot be “hired by foreigners.”

The government quickly tried to diffuse tension by reminding both sides to maintain restraint in their expression of euphoria.

Jokowi and Kalla met with President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono on Wednesday night, followed by Prabowo and Hatta separately much later that night. The two pairs said that they had been told to wait for the official results from the Committee of General Election on July 22.

The market responded positively to the news of Jokowi’s win, with the stock market and the rupiah strengthening the day after the election. But two more weeks of uncertainty might unravel this quickly.

Judging from the Prabowo camp’s intensive smear campaign to erode support for Jokowi in the past two months, two more weeks of uncertainty provide plenty of time to spread more propaganda to provoke conflict between the die-hard supporters of both candidates.

Already his camp pointed their fingers at quick count results that call Jokowi’s victory as being unfair and the result of “cyber war”, which is as ridiculous as saying that all media that try to maintain objectivity by not taking sides are on Jokowi’s side.

Prabowo has publicly expressed his disdain for media organisations that are critical of him – like the influential Kompas daily and Tempo magazine – accusing them of being vindictive or being paid by his opponents. Yesterday, he expressed similar sentiments against the pollsters, which he said could be paid by political candidates.

The irony is that three of the four survey agencies that called him the winner are linked to his campaign team’s leader Mahfud MD and Hary Tanoesoedibjo, owner of three of the five pro-Prabowo TV stations.

The latest development highlights the problem of “rogue” pollsters in Indonesia’s elections that has grown in the last decade since Indonesia started to conduct direct polls for president, governors, district heads and mayors.

But this time the scale of their work – especially as they involve national television stations – is undermining the reputation of credible pollsters and is threatening to disrupt Indonesia’s democratic process.

The Indonesian Association for Public Opinion Surveys (Persepi) has begun an investigation on the four pollsters that deviated from the results announced by eight agencies with proven track records, including Saiful Mujani Research & Consulting, CSIS-Cyrus Network, Kompas, Indikator Politik and Poltracking.

They had previously published quick counts that contrasted the results of the real poll results in some regional elections.  One of them, Puskaptis, was embroiled in a legal case with the police detaining its head for manipulating data during the gubernatorial election in South Sumatra in 2013.

Meanwhile, the two sides are tightly monitoring ballot counting in the regions. The Jokowi camp said it is anticipating the possibility of vote results being tampered with and manipulated during the lengthy and porous recapitulating process. 

Enggartiasto Lukito who oversees election witnesses in the Jokowi camp said his team has mobilised volunteers and party cadres to collect legally official forms containing vote counts in each ballot station in all districts. The team also uploads real counts collected by its volunteers in every polling station for the public to see. 

“We focus on densely populated areas where the risks of votes being manipulated are high,” he said. 

Indonesia is facing the biggest challenge to its democracy yet. It is in its biggest interest to make sure that people’s voice will be honoured. 

*This is the personal opinion of the columnist.