DUNCAN GRAHAM Hungry for a result in the Indonesian election?

May 21, 2019

The differences are stark. When Labor lost Bill Shorten quit and said: ‘Now that the contest is over, all of us have a responsibility to respect the result, respect the wishes of the Australian people and to bring our nation together.’ 

In Indonesia police are preparing for mass protests when the official results of the Presidential contest are announced on Wednesday. Foreign embassies have warned their nationals to stay indoors. Bomb plans have allegedly been uncovered.  

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 90 per cent of votes counted.

All lies, shouts Subianto trying to emulate Donald Trump. Not for him a concession speech, and a congratulatory call to the winner.

The former three-star general from an elite family is no fan of democracy. Deciding who runs a country of 270 million should not be based on the equality of one vote for each citizen, humble or haughty, but best determined by men with guns who know what’s best.

Which is how it was for 32 years last century when his former father-in-law Soeharto ran the show.

Subianto believes he was born to rule, though 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. It sounds funny – the petulance of a second placer. But this could be dangerous.

Subianto has enough money to make Clive Palmer look a pauper, so could rent big mobs to cause serious strife.

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 is expected to be heading to the Constitutional Court ahead of the inauguration on 20 October. No surprise because he 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 significant 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 Subianto 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 the nation 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; there seems to be no such bonding yet with Marise Payne who will presumably hold her job under the new Coalition Cabinet.

Human rights have rarely been an issue and are likely to slip still further with a Widodo win. Gays are under attack across the archipelago with the 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.

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