No closure for Indonesia as Prabowo extends political drama

AUG 10 — When president-elect Joko Widodo unveiled his five-person transitional team, Indonesians should have been able to breathe a sigh of relief. Finally, the country can move forward and begin the process of reconciliation and transfer of power.

But once again, the nation was denied such political closure as the Consitutional Court has started to hear his rival Prabowo Subianto’s lawsuit against the election results. The lawsuit seeks to annul the General Elections Commission (KPU) results that declared the Joko-Jusuf Kalla ticket as the winner. It claims the July 9 election was plagued with “massive and systemic” fraud.

KPU’s results showed that Jokowi, as the president elect is widely known, won 53.15 per cent to 46.8 per cent, pretty much similar to the findings of eight respectable survey institutes after the elections. However, Prabowo claimed that he won with 50.25 per cent compared to 49.74 per cent for Jokowi.

At Wednesday’s hearing, an adamant Prabowo raged once again about being cheated in a massive nationwide conspiracy to prevent him from becoming the leader of Indonesia.

“We are a pair that was backed by seven big political parties that won a combined 62 per cent votes in the legislative election, and we were hurt by the practice of cheating, dishonesty and unfairness shown by the election committee,” he said, claiming that at many polling stations his ticket won zero votes.

It’s hard to know whether he really believes in his fallacious statement, but anyone who follows politics in this country knows that, from the previous two elections, voters do not really vote according to their party lines in presidential elections.

Indonesia’s losing presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto waves as he leaves the Constitutional Court in Jakarta, August 6, 2014. — Reuters pic
Indonesia’s losing presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto waves as he leaves the Constitutional Court in Jakarta, August 6, 2014. — Reuters pic

And to make matters worse, he went on to compare the Indonesian election to that in “totalitarian, fascist and communist countries”, saying that even in North Korea the cheating is not that bad. 

That remark itself gives more than enough joke materials to super creative Internet meme creators in Indonesia. But outside the courtroom — and his 23-minute-long disturbing and cringe-inducing address on YouTube after the election result was announced — other people in the Prabowo’s camp have not been a great help either. They have been making one gaffe after another with statements that show blind militancy, irrationality and an intention to agitate.

Meanwhile, their legal claim in the dispute has received little credit. Legal experts dismissed the claims as being weak. The Constitutional justices even sent the lawsuit documentation back on the first day of the trial for much-needed improvements, such as providing arguments to back accusations like vote buying and clearly describing vague terms like voters’ “conditioning”.

In fact, everything about the lawsuit has been suspect from the beginning with the Prabowo camp failing to make good on his many promises, or, rather, threats — from the amount of documentation to support his lawsuit (15 trucks promised, three bound volumes delivered), to the number of protesters on the first day of the hearing (30,000 boasted; a few hundreds showed up). It only proves that unabashed hyperbole will blow away any shred of cred left of any political grouping.

Soon after the lawsuit was filed, the Constitutional Court uploaded the document for public viewing (a very smart move), which resulted in people volunteering to scrutinise it. They found a whole range of defects in the document, from inconsistent allegations, claims and facts that do not add up, to blatant editorial errors that showed it was hastily gathered and possibly poorly copy pasted from some other existing documents.

Not surprisingly, this only eroded further confidence in the man who once nearly surpassed Jokowi in the electability survey two weeks before the July 9 election, before the latter bounced back.

A national survey conducted by the Indonesian Survey Circle (LSI) on August. 4-6 showed that his supporters had begun to abandon him in the aftermath of the post-election drama. If a second presidential election takes place now, the Jokowi-JK pair would receive 57.06 per cent of the vote over Prabowo-Hatta’s 30.39 per cent, the survey found. The remaining 12.55 per cent were undecided or would not disclose their preference.

It is not hard to see that Indonesians are getting sick and and tired of the election — I suspect even a good chunk of Prabowo’s supporters too — and would love to be able to move on.

Prabowo’s lack of good grace and his insistence to fight the election results despite producing such thin evidence shows that he is not the man he touted himself to be, a ksatria or knight. It brings into question the image he projected of himself.

He said repeatedly before the election that he would accept it if he lost to Jokowi, but he has since done nothing but agitate his supporters to continue the fight, an intention that clearly aims at continuing to divide the country. His coalition of political parties even promised to pursue this further in the legislature by starting a Parliamentary inquiry into the election, intending to block Jokowi’s inauguration in October.

Prabowo’s impassioned conviction that he been cheated out of a victory reaffirms his reputed temper and intensely deep ambition. It even raised questions over his mental acuity — the word “delusional” has been used to describe him by some political and psychological analysts — in light of a stroke he reportedly suffered a few years ago.

The bad news is that Indonesia will remain split for sometime, and probably forever, as the die-hard “Prabowers” also tend to come from the same cluster of religious conservatives and hardliners.

The good news is that to the majority of Indonesians who do not support Prabowo, he and his political gang are looking less and less menacing and more and more farcical by the day.

*This is the personal opinion of the columnist.

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