Indonesia – Transparency and Accountability in the Presidential Elections 2014

The 2014 presidential race has turned out to be one of the most competitive since Indonesia’s democratization, and highly revealing in terms of citizens’ active participation in ensuring electoral integrity. The outcome of the presidential race is clearly important, and that will be unveiled in time. In this article, I point out three developments associated with accountability and transparency in the presidential race that deserve attention. They are: (1) the contentious quickcount results; (2) the grassroots mobilization for electoral integrity; and (3) the possible opposition coalition against a Jokowi presidency.

Events so far: Quick count results on July 9, election day, saw several pollsters call the election in favour of Joko Widodo (popularly known as Jokowi), the former governor of Jakarta and PDI-P presidential nominee, but some others called the election in favour of Prabowo Subianto, the founder and presidential nominee of Gerindra. Voter turnout was high: pollsters pegged it at 72 percent to 80 percent. The official results are expected July 22, and challenges may be filed with the Constitutional Court from July 23-July 24. The new president and vice-president is not due to be sworn in until October 20; this late date takes into account a possible run-off in September if the July elections had failed to yield a majority winner.

Quickcount results have generally hewed closely to the final official results; consequently, the disparate outcomes have raised eyebrows. More importantly, many see the contentions over the outcomes – both Presidential camps have declared victory, with Prabowo refusing to concede defeat and, additionally, calling to question the outcomes from seven pollsters – as foreshadowing conflict. As a result, current President SBY as well as the Elections Commission KPU chair have called for restraint until official results are announced. Still, some are calling President SBY’s stance biased, noting the President reversal of the neutral stance of his Democratic Party to an endorsement of Prabowo’s camp as calculated and a play-out of the grudge between the President and PDI-P chair Megawati Soekarnoputri.

polls

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Importantly, Indonesians have stepped up in this (possibly) worrisome situation to ensure the integrity of the electoral process: many are witnessing the vote counting process at their respective polling stations, and taking snapshots of the official tally – pictures of the C1 form (the piece of paper summarizing the vote count at each polling station) – and posting on social media to ward off a electoral fraud. Perhaps as further indication of public activism, shares of two companies that are reportedly providing biased quickcount results plunged by more than 6 percent even as the Jakarta Composite Index recorded its highest levels in 13 months.

Such grassroots activism may be valuable not only for electoral integrity but also a possible Jokowi presidency. A previous posting noted the importance of public support for legislative success for a president. A Jokowi presidency is likely to face legislative obstacles: the PDI-P and its coalition partners (NasDem, Hanura and PKPI) will have 207 of 560 House seats while the coalition supporting Prabowo controls 353 seats. If recent events are any indication, the coalition supporting Prabowo is already on track to change legislation in favour of the legislative majority: in particular, a coalition of six parties – Prabowo’s Gerindra and its five coalition partners: the Democratic Party, the Golkar Party, the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS), the National Mandate Party (PAN) and the United Development Party (PPP) – have voted to change House rules on the selection of a House Speaker. Until the change, the House Speaker went to the party with the most votes in the legislative election; on July 8, the coalition voted to change the position into an elected one.

There are now rumors that Golkar members are questioning the wisdom of an alliance in the opposition, although parties having second (or third) thoughts have not been unusual in this election (see Democratic Party above, and a previous discussion of the support–retraction-support of the United Development Party (PPP) for Prabowo Subianto). Such variability does not help with party-building, and it may be useful for leaders to be attentive to that effect in an emergent democracy like Indonesia.

At least one prediction appears to have been met: there has been no shortage of election news from Indonesia in 2014.

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