The results of the general election in Indonesia has been announced around an hour ago, in the early morning of Tuesday, Indonesian time. One day earlier than scheduled. Presidential and legislative election were done simultaneously. Around 192.8 million people voted across the 17 islands of the Indonesian archipelago, spread out in more than 800,000 polling stations with around 300 voters each. For the presidential election, the incumbent Joko Widodo (candidate 01) had won with 55.50% of votes, with a difference of 16.9 million votes from their his competition, Prabowo (candidate 02). Nevertheless, this election is dubbed as the most bizarre in Indonesia’s election history as there are many ‘indications’ (to say it mildly) of fraudulence in the presidential election, deaths of around 600 election officials, and criminalisation of religious scholars and those who speak against the election process. I am actually embarrassed to write this about my country, but in the end, I feel obligated to write about it as an account of history, before all these become swayed after what will happen next in Indonesia.
SIGNS OF FRAUDULENCE
Indication of fraudulence that have been reported in the news and at the Press Conference held by the Prabowo-Sandi Campaign Team (Prabowo-Sandi (02) were running against the incumbent Joko Widodo (01)), are as follows:
- Duplicate voters and excessive numbers of ghost voters were detected. As an illustration, the 02 team investigated neighbourhoods on the ground and found that in some polling stations, 50% of listed voters were not known to the owners of the houses registered as the address of those ghost voters, and they were nowhere to be found. Moreover, voters listed in around 19,000 polling stations had uniform birth dates. even though their actual birth date were registered in the civil registry. In summary, the team found 17.5 million ghost voters, 6.1 million duplicate data, and 18.8 million invalid data. They had forwarded their concerns to the election commission before the election day, but their concerns were not properly or completely addressed. According to the 02 team, on the day of the election, the voter list was actually never finalised.
- Around 6 million people did not receive their formal invitation letter to participate in the election. They were forced to wait until the final one hour of the election time to vote, provided there were still some ballot papers left. However, in many polling stations, there were shortages of ballot papers.
- Some ballot papers have been found to be pre-punctured for the incumbent candidate 01 (in this election, voting is done by puncturing the ballot paper with a nail). Therefore, if the voter did not pay attention to the pre-punctured ballot paper and voted for candidate 02, their vote would be counted as invalid. In Malaysia, a bulk of pre-punctured ballot papers for 01 had been discovered prior to election day.
- The ballot box is made out of cardboard and ironically locked with a padlock. Consequently, this made it easy for those who want to manipulate voting results to unlawfully break the ballot box open. And opened ballot boxes not according to lawful procedures have been found in several places according to the 02 team.
- On election day, the quick count was conducted to predict the election results. However, there is an indication that some (to say it mildly) of the institutions who conduct the quick count were actually campaign advisors to the incumbent candidate 01. At least around twenty of them have not disclosed their funding resources to the election commission until today. There were opinions spreading that the quick count was actually done to frame the result of the election by suggesting that 01 had won. This opinion still needs to be supported by evidence, but the fact is, the current final result of the election is only different in decimals from the quick count result. Either the quick count method was really superb, or there could be something really wrong.
- The election commission provides a website called “Situng” for the public to monitor the vote real count as an attempt for transparency. However, many discrepancies had been found in the Situng when people try to compare the voting results they derived from their respective polling stations with the results displayed on the Situng. Even though some of the discrepancies found on the “Situng” favoured 02, most of them favoured the incumbent 01. Of the discrepancies, some of the original documents had even been manipulated. The number of cases reported amounts to around 600 to 10,000 or more polling stations (of a total of 800,000).
- The ratio of votes gained by both candidates on the Situng was already stable, close to the quick count result, when the incoming data was still less than a thousand of more than 800,000 of polling stations (less than 1% of incoming data), and remained so except for some time, when 02 vote ratio was well below the quick count ratio. As the volume of incoming data increased, it became clear that the input of data into the front end of the “Situng” was selective rather than random. People gradually realise that votes in areas where 01 has the majority of votes were entered in advance while the input of votes from areas where 02 was superior was delayed so that the stability of vote ratio was maintained throughout, to further suggest to the public that 01 had won. Data input from other real-count websites created by volunteers meant to guard the government-based real count process were there initially as a comparison. This gives the impression that there was an effort to maintain public suggestion that 01 had won (by the stable vote ratio favouring 01) on the front end of the Situng, while trying to buy time behind the scenes and on the ground to find ways to adjust the final real count ratio to fit the quick count ratio. The 02 Campaign Team suggested that one possible scenario of this ‘adjustment’ could be by moulding the votes of the excessive number of ghost voters on the voter list that had not been appropriately addressed/removed prior to election day (see bullet point one). There are other possible scenarios of this fraudulence, but they still need to be contested in constitutional forums.
- As the report of the incongruence of vote counts on Situng and that of polling stations (collected and guarded voluntarily) increased on social media, the election commission issued a disclaimer on the Situng that the vote count of the Situng was not the legal result of the election. Instead, the results of manual tiered vote recapitulation were. Tiered, as in the votes were first counted in the polling stations, and then manually recapitulated in the district, regency/city, provincial, and at last at the national level consecutively. But the manual count is even more prone to fraudulence, as experienced in many other countries. For example, a politician disclosed on television that it had been reported to him on the ground that in some polling stations, the results agreed upon in the evening after vote count were sometimes not the same with what were reported in the next morning.
The acts of fraudulence would not be easy to prove on paper. The election commission’s stance so far is that the number of discrepancies was small in comparison to the whole dataset, so it is negligible. But they forget that this might only be the tip of the iceberg, and many other instances might have gone undetected. I personally am aware of other forms of fraudulence, but cannot mention it here. So, with the existing indications of fraudulence, would the results still be accepted wholeheartedly by the people? People will move on with their lives. But this leaves a bad taste in the senses and in the mind. It may cultivate the culture of dishonesty even deeper into Indonesian society, which is despicable and sad at the same time.
Election is a once in five years event, and it has been said that those who lost can participate in the election again after five years. I think what had occurred should be a lesson to prepare better for the next election, not only how to campaign but also how to prevent fraudulence, guard votes, and prove it when fraudulence occur. It should not be an arbitrary process, but rather planned out and organised carefully.
THE HIGH NUMBER OF DEATHS OF ELECTION OFFICIALS
The death toll of election officials is now about 600 people and thousands are hospitalised. In the polling station where I voted, the election officials started very early in the morning of 17th of April to prepare the polling station. The voting session started at 7 am and ended at 1 pm. Vote count began afterwards and did not finish until 4 am the next day. Due to the simultaneous presidential and legislative election, with 5 ballot boxes for each polling station, it took a very long and exhausting time to finish the vote counting. Moreover, the election officials started working day and night even long before the election day, gathering data of voters, preparing the logistics for the election day, and distributing the voting invitations, amongst other tasks. Their job also did not end after the election day. They still had to guard the ballot boxes and compile reports to hand it over to the district recapitulation. For some, they also had to attend the recapitulation at the next tiered levels that usually went on until late in the evening. Consequently, many officials suffer from physical and mental exhaustion, and some hospitalisation, and even death. One to two officials have been reported to commit suicide.
The high numbers of death and hospitalisation of election officials is a reflection of imprudent planning and management of human resources by the government in general and the election commission in particular. Not only that, even after the death toll had risen, nothing substantially was done as a response by the authorities. No substantial investigation, no substantial mitigation. When the number of deaths was raised to the election commission commissioners, they just dismissed it as a small percentage of the total number of election officials working in the election. When the number of deaths increased, they only responded that this is still less than the national average of the annual death. According to the election commission, deaths were caused by exhaustion and traffic accidents. They decided to continue the recapitulation process despite the rising numbers of death.
THE CRIMINALISATION OF OPPONENTS
Even before the election, it was actually already visible to the public, of how people in the opposition (including politicians, activist, and even Islamic scholars) were criminalised if they speak against the government, gain sympathy from the people, or seen as a competition by the government. People in the opposition camp are either jailed, detained or called for a legal hearing by the police for deeds that would not have the same impact on the people in the government camp when conducting the same deed. Those who support candidate 02, who organise volunteers to guard the election for 02 votes, who point out the flaws and fraudulence of the election process etc have been called by the police for legal hearing from time to time during the election process in the last month, sometimes due to a totally different criminal case. The financial system in Indonesia can oftentimes be a legal trap and can be used to frame anyone at will, especially political opponents, but that is a different topic altogether. The IT laws which basically regulates online conduct can also be used to easily frame people, especially political opponents.
The high number of election officials who have died has raised concerns amongst physicians in Indonesia who express their opinion in groups or individually. One doctor who elaborated that exhaustion was not usually the cause of death and who had conducted her own voluntarily research on this issue had been detained by the police and accused of spreading hoax.
Recently, social media accounts or posts of those who have persistently raised their voice against the government and point out the flaws and fraudulence of the election process have been disabled or removed one by one. Social media platforms such as Facebook seemingly bow to the demands of the government and their supporters to remove posts and disable accounts opposed to the government, without really looking at what was said or what the current situation in Indonesia is. People are trying to voice their concerns, fight for their rights, and fight against injustice. Facebook should be a platform for voicing against injustice rather than an agent for political repression. Even though the existence of hoax cannot be avoided, there are legit concerns among the voices of the opposition.