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Indonesia Elections: Controversy Surrounds Indonesia's Election Result

Indonesia Elections | As legal disputes unfold in the Constitutional Court and parliamentary inquiries are launched, the future of Indonesia's electoral process hangs in the balance.

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Indonesia Elections: Indonesia's recent election results have sparked controversy | "Hakim MK" by mkri.id | Credits CC 4.0

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Indonesia Elections 2024

Indonesia's recent election results have sparked controversy and raised questions about the integrity of the Indonesian electoral process.

Indonesia’s election, held on February 14th, determined the country's next president and selected legislative bodies at both the national and provincial levels. But allegations of fraud and misconduct before, during and after voting day have cast a shadow on the legitimacy of the results.

Former general Prabowo Subianto and his running mate, Gibran Rakabuming (son of former president Joko Widodo), were declared winners by the election commission, garnering 58.5 percent of the vote. 

But just three days after the announcement, candidates, Anies Baswedan – Muhaimin Iskandar (AMIN) and Ganjar Pranowo - Mahfud MD (GAMA) filed petitions against that result to the Constitutional Court. 

Indonesia Elections: Key Points of Contention

Protests against the results had been anticipated. 

One of the key points of contention revolves around changes to election laws, particularly regarding the age requirements for presidential and vice-presidential candidates.

On October 16, 2023, the Constitutional Court changed the 2017 Election Law, which required presidential and vice-presidential candidates to be 40 years or older. The new version of the law specified that candidates must "currently hold or have held  state positions elected through elections, including regional head elections." 

The Constitutional Court's decision to amend the law allowed Gibran Rakabuming, who was at the time 36 years old and the Mayor of Solo, to run as a vice-presidential candidate. The controversy deepened when it was revealed that the chief justice overseeing the decision was Gibran's uncle, raising concerns about impartiality and nepotism within the judiciary.

On November 7, 2023, the Honorary Panel of the Constitutional Court decided that this was an ethical violation of the Constitutional Court's decision and the chief justice was dismissed. Eight other judges were also examined, but the decision was not overturned.

The Election Organiser Honorary Council ruled that all commissioners of the Indonesian General Election Commission violated ethics in the nomination of Gibran as a vice-presidential candidate.  The commission was accused of processing Gibran's registration without adjusting the minimum age requirement in accordance with the Constitutional Court's decision, further undermining the credibility of the electoral process.

Pork-barrel politics is common practice among incumbents seeking re-election in Indonesia, but the recent election took the practice to new heights. Massive cash transfers, particularly through social aid programs like Bansos, have raised suspicions of vote buying and electoral manipulation. 

The Minister of Finance said there was a 135 percent surge in  social assistance payments to 27.7 million people across Indonesia in January 2024 alone. The distribution of funds, totalling trillions of rupiah, has been questioned, with allegations  that these funds are being distributed in areas where there are many supporters of the Anies-Muhaimin and Ganjar-Mahfud.

Financial incentives were also reportedly used to secure support for Prabowo-Gibran among government employees, police and military officers, some of whom received salary increases in exchange for support.

There have also been reports of intimidation tactics influencing support for specific candidates in Indonesia's 82,395 villages.  Since 2015, these villages have received Village Funds. While well intentioned, these funds are often problematic. Not all village heads have the ability to manage these funds and many are considered corrupt

On November 29, thousands of village heads attended a rally at the GBK stadium in Jakarta, declaring their support for Prabowo-Gibran. The attendance of these village heads was voluntary, but many of them were allegedly intimidated with threats that if they did not attend, the management of village funds would be audited and examined by law enforcement. The intimidation also caused the head village to compel their people to vote Prabowo-Gibran.

The neutrality of former president Joko Widowo has also been called into question. The Election Law 2017 mentions several provisions requiring the president to maintain his neutrality, but there have been many incidents of non-neutrality by some active ministers and president Joko Widodo himself, and sub-national interim officials being pressured to support the Prabowo-Gibran. Even the UN Human Rights Committee specifically questioned Joko Widodo's neutrality in the election.

The decision to hold the election in a single round, rather than two, has added to the controversy. While Prabowo argued that a single-round election would be less messy, tiring and costly, critics question the fairness and transparency of such a process.

The single round election issue was most controversial in Papua. Since 2004, elections in Papua have used the Noken system, allowing a single candidate to get all votes cast, resulting in a 100 percent win. According to Election Law, 19 provinces must exceed 20 percent of votes for a one-round election. Despite a moratorium, President Joko Widodo added three provinces to Papua on November 17, 2022. This move was seen as favourable for ensuring a one-round election, crucial for Prabowo-Gibran's chances of victory.

Academics and civil society groups have voiced their concerns, highlighting the importance of upholding democratic principles and ethical conduct in elections. The election was marred by irregularities and controversies, prompting protests and calls for accountability.

As legal disputes unfold in the Constitutional Court and parliamentary inquiries are launched, the future of Indonesia's electoral process hangs in the balance. The outcome of these investigations will determine whether the alleged violations will go unpunished or if measures will be taken to ensure fair and transparent elections in the future.

Harkristuti Harkrisnowo is a Professor at the Faculty of Law, University of Indonesia. Her main interests are criminal law, criminal justice, criminology and human rights. She is also the chair of the Council of Professors, University of Indonesia.

Originally published under Creative Commons by 360info™.

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