On Thusday, 27 June, 2019, the Constitutional Court finally ruled to throw out the challenges to the presidential election results put up by presidential candidate, Prabowo Subianto, and his vice-president running mate, Sandiaga Uno. The Court’s ruling ends Prabowo’s efforts to dispute the election outcomes since election day, April 17, 2019, when quickcount results show that President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo and his running mate, Ma’ruf Amin, had won the elections by as much as 10 percent over rival candidates Prabowo and Sandiaga. When the General Elections Commission (KPU) officially announced the results on May 21, 2019, declaring Jokowi-Amin had secured 55.5 percent of the votes cast, against Prabowo-Sandi’s 44.5 percent, Prabowo submitted a legal challenge to the Court, claiming “structured, systematic and massive” fraud and vote inflation by the KPU for the Jokowi-Amin ticket. Prabowo has announced that he accepts the Constitutional Court’s decision, but the former general has yet to concede defeat; instead, he has made clear that he will look for possible legal venues to appeal the Court’s ruling. In this post, I discuss some of the costs that has resulted from this tenacious opposition.
The opposition, named the Red-and-White Opposition, was formed after April 2014 general elections, i.e., during the period of horse-trading among the various legislative parties to join party-camps in the lead-up to presidential elections in July. This was under the previous Presidential Election Law, Law No. 42/2008, which ruled presidential elections were held three months following the general elections so that only parties or party-coalitions with 25 percent of the national vote or 20 percent of the parliamentary seats were able to nominate presidential-vice presidential candidates. Although President Jokowi won that election, his party and coalition fared worse: they formed the legislative minority with 207 seats, against the Red-and-White opposition’s 353 seats. Indeed, by the time President Jokowi was sworn in until October 20, the opposition-majority had made some palpable changes, including changing the rules of leadership appointments so that leadership positions in House committees and even the House speaker went to the opposition. The most damaging change by this conservative coalition was the abolishment of direct elections for regional leaders, but that was eventually reversed by the President’s Perppu or Presidential, followed by a unanimous support in the legislature in January 2015 for the reinstatement of said elections.[i]
The Red-and-White opposition stalled or misdirected President Jokowi’s agenda for a year before coalition parties in that opposition fell away to join the President. By January 2016, Gerindra and the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) looked to be the only parties left in the Red-and-White opposition. And, with the most recent electoral and Constitutional Court defeats, Prabowo has disbanded the coalition and his campaign team.
Still, the damage from this conservative coalition extends beyond the time that it held together. For instance, the Red-and-White opposition orchestrated the use of religion in elections: religion has used successfully as a strategy to divide the popular vote in the 2017 Jakarta 2017, when Governor Anies had sought the support of Islamist groups, including militant groups such as the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI), known for hard-line stances and attacks against minorities, during the campaign. The social media campaign, #2019GantiPresiden (#2019ChangePresident) campaign, was initiated by the PKS party and it echoed the Jakarta campaign where opposition was aimed at undermining the incumbent candidate rather than providing viable alternatives.
President Jokowi’s response — picking Ma’ruf Amin, chairman of the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI), the country’s top Muslim clerical body that comprises all registered Muslim organizations – as his running mate clearly helped strengthen considerably the President’s position in the Muslim community. However, Ma’ruf’s convictions are also fiercely orthodox; indeed, as the chairman of the MUI, Ma’ruf signed a document recommending that the statement former Jakarta governor Ahok made be considered “blasphemous” for insulting Islam, essentially adding the nail to the coffin on Ahok. Ma’ruf also advocates for the criminalization of gay sex, so that the effect that this incoming Vice President has on legislation will be important to watch.
Meanwhile, the House – which has prioritized revisions of the criminal code – has put in articles that critics charged are problematic, including criminal codes that would take corruption investigation out of the KPK, criminalization of same-sex relations, extramarital sex and adultery, and codes that affect the civil liberties and rights of marginalized and vulnerable groups, and the poor. At the same time, religiously motivated attacks have been on the rise in Indonesia, prompting the legislature to pass the President’s Perppu to ban organizations that did not support Indonesia’s ideology of Pancasila. That law has been used to disband extremist hard-line Islamist groups, such as the Hizbut Tahrir; however, critics are concerned that the law gives the government the right to disband organizations without due process of law.
The opposition may have disbanded, but the conservative turn that it has shepherded continues to linger. Politics in Indonesia remains important to keep watch.
[i] Yap, O. Fiona. 2015. “Indonesia – The President, Awesome Indonesia, and the Red-White Opposition.” https://presidential-power.com/?p=3084 <accessed July 1, 2019>
 Yap, O. Fiona. April 27, 2017. “Indonesia – The Jakarta Gubernatorial Election, Politics, and the 2019 Presidential Elections.” https://presidential-power.com/?p=6369 <last accessed July 1, 2019>