The court decides; doom to follow?

Apr 26, 2024
Indonesian Defense Minister Prabowo Subianto during a bilateral exchange at The Pentagon on August 24, 2023

As predicted in Pearls & Irritations earlier this month, an appeal by the two losing candidates in the 14 February Indonesian presidential election has been trounced this week by the Constitutional Court.

Challenges to the result came from two former provincial governors: Dr Anies Baswedan (25 per cent), and Ganjar Pranowo, (16 per cent).

The judges voted five to three to flick away allegations the state had fiddled by backing the hands-down winner of the three-way contest, disgraced former general and Defence Minister Prabowo Subianto. He captured 58 per cent of the vote.

During the hearings, not attended by Jokowi, his ministers said the litigants’ claims were nonsense. Tucker boxes and welfare lollies handed out just ahead of the ballot were to help the poor and not designed to sway voters. The timing was coincidental.

As pig meat is taboo for most consumers, barreling is also nonsense.

The Court’s decision means the right-wing Prabowo and his apparently ideology-free vice-presidential running mate Gibran Rakabuming Raka will have their hands on the wheel of the world’s third-largest democracy in October. By then Prabowo will be 73.

No more appeals possible, and so far only a mild street demo. When Prabowo lost after the 2019 election ten died and 300 were injured.

Another argument used to try and overturn the election result was plagiarism.

Gibran, 36, is the eldest son of the current president Joko ‘Jokowi’ Widodo. Indonesian law bans under-40s from standing for high office. However, the Constitutional Court, then headed by his uncle decided exceptions were possible, so let the young man have his phiz on the posters.

Lawyers for the hapless duo told the court democracy would be savaged should Prabowo’s win be upheld; they could be right as the dogs are already snarling for the spoils.

In the Indonesian system all parties form coalitions to boost their chances. Those who backed the losers now reckon life will be better with the winner who can share bits of the bones, maybe even some offal for disgruntled donors.

Prabowo heads the Gerindra (Great Indonesia Movement) Party he created in 2008. It drew in six smaller parties before the election while Anies had three and Ganjar four. There are 24 all up, some too tiny to count.

Once enthroned in October, Prabowo and Gibran should have five years in office. This will leave others with little to do but bark while dashing down the roadside fence as the triumphant swan past.

The Westminster system doesn’t operate so there’s no cohort of shadow ministers supposedly full-bottle on the government’s departments and duties, ready to take over temporarily should the elected government collapse.

The vindictive sniping and vile slurs that make up much of Australian parliamentary debates are rarely heard. Indonesian politicians can be as nasty as their Down Under colleagues, but they tend to keep hate under control in public statements.

Avoiding defamation lawyers by blaspheming during a parliamentary sitting isn’t a privilege for Indonesian MPs. A few are now favouring the courts to correct the real or imagined slurs sent their way – a trend making NGOs careful of their language when criticising the government.

Opposition in most democracies is a miserable job, but if the wee ones can creep into the shade of the big tent they’ll likely get rewards for moving, maybe with a soft ministry where salaries are higher and corruption chances better. The ideal is Religious Affairs where graft has holy status.

What happens next? The victors will say the goody handout days are gone – at least till 2029 – and evict Jokowi’s long-servers like Foreign Affairs Minister Reno Marsudi, 60. She’ll probably be replaced by a pretender as Prabowo considers himself a globe-strutter.

She or he doesn’t have to be an elected member. Experts and mates from outside politics can be appointed as a minister without having to join a party.

Retno was ambassador to the Netherlands before promotion and studied European law pre-career. She’s been in the job for ten years serving a president more interested in domestic affairs where he has done well building toll roads and new railways along with a universal health scheme.

Like Medicare, its well-being is under threat by doctors used to the private system so seeking more government money for their skills. Public hospitals are also discovering a need for the latest diagnostic equipment and bigger staff carparks.

Fixing these inherited hassles is going to test the talents of the new administration that has already dosed itself with toxins.

An off-the-cuff promise made by Prabowo while campaigning will cause political migraines and swags of unbudgeted money – $47 billion for free meals at primary schools.

The intent is good; early childhood stunting and wasting caused by malnutrition is a serious issue impacting more than 20 per cent of youngsters.

Bringing that figure down to Australian levels, reportedly among the world’s lowest, will probably involve overseas help – shaming the new government that prefers to be known for its more obvious triumphs.

Top of the list is the Jokowi-legacy show, the new capital of Nusantara on Borneo Island, and a voracious money guzzler.

Much of last year was spent by Jokowi trying – and failing – to get foreign investors to support his idea that the best way to take the weight off impossible, polluted and overcrowded Jakarta, was to start afresh 1,000 km north.

It’s widely believed that Gibran was dealt by the family into the VP job to ensure Prabowo keeps his predecessor’s mega-project going with its ostentatious palace arising from felled forests.

Nusantara is billed as a green city, an ecological dream. Right now it’s a nightmare for economists, environmentalists – and Prabowo.

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