Indonesian police are preparing for protests when the official results of the Presidential contest are announced next Wednesday.
Unofficial ‘quick counts’ after the polls closed on 17 April showed incumbent Joko ‘Jokowi’ Widodo with a ten point advantage over challenger Prabowo Subianto.
The official slow count of boxes from the 810,000 booths across 34 provinces has enlarged Widodo’s lead to around 13 per cent with more than 80 per cent of votes counted.
All lies, shouts Subianto trying to emulate Donald Trump. The former three-star general from an elite family believes he was born to rule, but so far has been a four-time loser. He pitched for the top job in 2004, then for vice president in 2009 and for president in 2014 and again this year.
To fulfill his imagined destiny before being defeated by age, Subianto, 67, argues that his team has collected 3,000 examples of fraud in the voting and counting process.
So whatever is announced by the Electoral Commission (KPU) on 22 May he’ll not accept the result. That’s what he’s saying.
The aggressive, hot-tempered one-time soldier with a dubious human rights record has more personality defects than campaign ribbons. Prime is his failure to understand that the new generation of voters in the world’s third largest democracy has a different view of society.
They want competent civilians in charge and the army out of politics. Under second president Soeharto’s Dwifungsi (dual function) policy the military held reserved seats in the Dewan Perwakilan Rakyat (DPR – House of Representatives) and top positions in the public service for which many were ill equipped.
Subianto’s assertion that he’s won 60 per cent of the vote is based on figures garnered by the National Tabulation of Volunteers for Changing the President. As its name reveals, this is not an impartial organization. So Subianto will be heading to the Constitutional Court ahead of the inauguration on 20 October.
That’s no surprise because the former son-in-law of Soeharto tried that track when he lost to Widodo five years ago.
This time his supporters have been threatening ‘people power’ street riots. The real version of that term was the democratic election with an estimated 80 per cent participation rate.
Every day small numbers parade outside the KPU’s Jakarta HQ. However they’ve toned down their feigned outrage since senior clerics from the two largest Islamic organisations, Nahdlatul Ulama (NU – Revival of the scholars) and Muhammadiyah (followers of Muhammad), reminded them it’s time to pray, not protest.
One zealot called for Widodo to be beheaded which prompted the police to arrest. Most of the time they’ve been watching and warning, intimidating by numbers and discipline, and avoiding confrontations like forcefully dispersing. This welcome shift in crowd-control techniques follows training by the Australian police.
Two decades ago Soeharto stepped down after men in uniform (the police were then part of the military) opened fire on student demonstrators, killing four and injuring scores.
So far the Prabowo camp’s anger has also been muted by requirements of faith. It’s now the middle of the Ramadan holy month; as the four weeks of fasting heads towards Idul Fitri in early June, the famished are showing exhaustion.
Napoleon Bonaparte said an army marches on its stomach. So do rioters.
This is also the silly season. One failed candidate in the DPR elections, held on the same day as the presidential contest, went to a mosque and demanded back the green carpet he’d donated to win worshippers’ votes. The huge floor covering was dumped in the street.
The death toll among people staffing the booths has now reportedly exceeded 400; Subianto’s team reckons they died not because they were old, infirm and exhausted, but because they were trying to prevent their boss from winning, so want autopsies.
Just a couple of problems with this creepy reasoning: If post mortems showed hearts and minds can be impregnated with a political virus, despots would demand drums of the stuff to infect their subjects.
The other difficulty is that the Muslim dead are buried the day they die. The idea of relatives giving permission for hundreds of exhumations in an attempt to bolster crackpot theories goes beyond the bizarre. Hey, that’s Indonesia, which makes life here so engrossing.
Most diplomats and foreign observers have accepted a Widodo win and are now focusing on the likely make-up of his new Cabinet for the second five-year term. All bets are on the low-profile Retno Marsudi, 57, holding onto Foreign Affairs so no radical shifts expected from the present ‘non-aligned’ policy.
Marsudi seemed to get on well with former Australian Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop; how the Indonesian will cope if Labor’s Malaysian-born Penny Ying-Yen Wong, 50, gets the job will be worth watching, as Indonesia’s prurient press will likely make much of the Senator’s lesbianism.
Gays are under attack across the archipelago with Widodo’s sidekick and soon to be vice-president Ma’ruf Amin, 76, leading the prejudice. The right-wing former NU cleric was shoehorned into standing to boost Widodo’s Muslim vote, but human rights activists fear he’ll push the nation further into conservatism.
That’s already underway. Although the Film Censorship Board approved veteran director Garin Nugroho’s Kucumbu Tubuh Indahku (Memories of my body) for public showing, few Indonesians are getting the chance to view a movie that’s won overseas awards.
It’s being banned by clerics for dealing with LGBT issues on the basis that watching will encourage youngsters to change their sexual preferences. With this logic violent films should be outlawed to stop viewers becoming Subianto imitators.
Australian journalist Duncan Graham lives in Indonesia.