Losing candidate claims 'structural, systemic and massive' fraud prevented him from winning, but experts doubt his claims have a leg to stand on.
Opposition candidate Prabowo Subianto is disputing the outcome of Indonesia’s April 17 presidential elections, declaring on Tuesday that he will challenge the result before the country’s constitutional court and alleging “structural, systemic and massive” vote-rigging.
Prabowo’s decision was not a complete surprise. But it still sent political tremors through the capital, Jakarta, with a mass rally of his supporters expected on Wednesday.
On Tuesday afternoon, security forces started assembling outside the election commission building, outnumbering a few hundred Prabowo supporters who have already started demonstrating.
In anticipation of the official announcement of election results, Indonesia had already deployed 32,000 troops as early as last week. Intelligence agencies have also warned against possible attacks, something that the Prabowo campaign has disowned.
Earlier on Tuesday, incumbent President Joko Widodo, also known as Jokowi, was officially announced as the winner in his rematch with Prabowo. Jokowi garnered 55.5 percent of the vote against Prabowo’s 44.5 percent. That translates to 85.6 million votes for the president and his running-mate, Ma’ruf Amin, to Prabowo and Sadiaga Uno’s 68.65 million votes.
The numbers tally closely with most pre-election surveys, which predicted a Jokowi victory over Prabowo.
This year’s election was the third time that Prabowo, a former son-in-law of the military ruler, Soeharto, sought the presidency. And for the third time, the Indonesian electorate rejected him.
Rumail Abbas, an Indonesian political researcher and historian, told TRT World that Prabowo has no choice but to accept the will of the voters.
“There is no reason not to accept the results of the KPU,” he said, referring to the election commission. “Prabowo’s camp cannot prove the allegations that they have spread.”
Ahead of this year’s elections, Abbas had already predicted that while many young voters were dismayed by some of Jokowi’s policies, they would still swing to his camp at the last minute, as they identify more with his policies than Prabowo’s.
There was widespread speculation that more young voters would boycott the 2019 polls, hurting Jokowi’s chances for re-election. That prompted foreign media to heavily report on the so-called Golput movement this year. Just over 70 percent of voters cast their ballot in 2014.
One election day, voters, however, defied conventional wisdom by flocking to the polls, boosting turnout to almost 82 percent. That also likely neutralised the momentum that Prabowo claimed over Jokowi.
In 2014, the two candidates had also faced-off in an election, in which the former Jakarta governor prevailed over the ex-army general with a narrower 53-47 margin.
Prabowo rejected the poll results that year, withdrawing from the counting even before the final numbers were tallied in Jokowi’s favour.
This year, Prabowo set himself up for another disappointment when his campaign claimed ahead of the voting that he has 62 percent electability over Jokowi’s 38 percent.
Then, on the night of the April 17 elections, he delivered a defiant speech, claiming that he had won 55 percent of the vote, firing up his supporters outside his campaign headquarters in Jakarta. His name also dominated social media chatter, with reports of a Prabowo victory trending on Twitter.
Claims of fraud without evidence
His campaign also claimed, without presenting proof, that million of fictitious names were added in the voters list.
Prabowo did not say where he got his numbers, contradicting the quick-counts reported by Indonesian and foreign media, which predicted another Jokowi victory.
In contrast, a confident-looking Jokowi appealed for calm and asked his jubilant supporters to be “patient”, while thanking election workers and volunteers for a peaceful conduct of elections that day.
Meanwhile, voter sentiment also appeared to side with Jokowi, with the stock market and currency exchange remaining stable since the elections, and the streets of Jakarta quickly returning to normal a day after the polls.
On Tuesday, Jokowi again appealed for calm saying that he will respect the decision of the opposition, adding that the election protest is “in accordance with the constitution”.
Mikhail Gorbachev Dom, an unsuccessful candidate for a seat in Congress and whose minority party was allied with Jokowi, criticised Prabowo for conditioning his supporters to think that he could only lose the race if there was election fraud.
“We at the Indonesian Solidarity Party exemplified how to be good citizens by conceding defeat when the quick count results were announced,” he told TRT World on Tuesday.
“Prabowo and his supporters made insinuations that they won with 55 percent of the vote, instead of admitting defeat,” he said.
Bawaslu, Indonesia’s election monitoring body, has also rejected claims of election fraud by the Prabowo campaign.
Nevertheless, Jokowi, who will be inaugurated in October, said that he also wants to meet Prabowo for talks and continue "brotherly ties" with his opponent.
In protesting the outcome of the polls, Prabowo may have delivered a swing at the legitimacy of Indonesia’s voting process. But with the vast majority accepting the results, he might end up just giving himself an electoral black eye.