Indonesia: Presidential and General Elections, 2019

April 17, 2019, witnessed the first simultaneous election of the presidency and the legislature in Indonesia since democratization in 1998, and the institutionalization of direct presidential elections in the country in 2002. Some 809,000 polling stations in the country were open from 7:00am to 1:00pm for the 192 million eligible voters to cast their votes on election day, a public holiday. Voter turnout was estimated at 80 percent or higher. Official results are not expected for a month, due to the size of the elections: 575 seats of the House of Representatives (Dewan Perwakilan Rakyat, DPR), 136 seats for the People’s Representatives Council (Dewan Perwakilan Daerah, DPD), 2207 seats in provincial elections, and 17,610 district elections. The following recounts polling results and also describes some challenging developments since election day.

Quickcount results show President Joko (Jokowi) Widodo and his running mate, Ma’ruf Amin, chairman of the Indonesian Ulema council, have won the country’s highest offices. Quickcount results have also reported the president’s legislative coalition with a majority of the legislative seats. 10 parties constitute the President’s coalition and initial results show the president’s Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) leading with the largest number of votes, Golkar in third place, and with the National Awakening Party (PKB), and NasDem Party also doing well. Meanwhile, the opposition coalition supporting presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto, the Gerindra Party and its coalition partners, the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS), the National Mandate Party (PAN), are also successful at the legislative elections, with polls showing that Gerindra poised to become the second largest party in the legislature.

That’s the good news. In particular, the President’s legislative majority contrasts against the aftermath of the 2014 elections where the opposition coalition coalesced into a majority that hindered the President’s agenda for a year before falling away to the President’s camp.  

The problematic news: Prabowo Subianto has rejected the quickcount results, in a replay of events immediately following the 2014 election quickcount outcome. In particular, in 2014, Prabowo refused to concede defeat and called to question of the objectivity of the quickcount polls. This time around, it’s even more dramatic: Prabowo has declared himself victorious in the election, making claims that quickcount results are biased, of irregularities and wrong-doing at the polls, and that “other” polls show he has clinched the presidency.

These claims are seen as provocative and escalating post-election tensions in the country; several leaders, including former President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (SBY) and chairman of Rabithah Alawiyah, an organization for habib, or Islamic scholars from the Sayyid community, have called for national unity and calm. Indeed, the former president, whose Democratic Party supports Prabowo’s candidacy, has gone so far as to urge party officials to withdraw temporarily from the Gerindra campaign team. Meanwhile, the chiefs of military and police have issued warnings against anyone engaged in “unconstitutional act that can damage our democracy.”

In perhaps the slightest hint of concession, Prabowo has urged his supporters to refrain from “overreacting” to his declarations, although the former lieutenant-General has not refrained from issuing the declarations. Results are expected to be announced on May 22, 2019, 35 days from election day. There is a lot of hope that the world’s third largest democracy, and a country with the largest Muslim population in the world, will see the elections peacefully through to the end.

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