Prabowo the kid, the vote count, and “revolusi mental”


In short, Jokowi won the Indonesian General Election Commission (KPU) “Real Count” with around 53% to 46% of the popular vote, surpassing the original quick count predictions. While Prabowo continues to say he is gathering evidence to take the KPU verdict to the constitutional court, claiming rampant voter fraud amounting to around 8.5 million votes (votes, if handed over to him, would conveniently close the margin between him & Jokowi), the rest of Indonesia and the world seems happy with the election result. The Jakarta Globe keeps proudly touting how positively financial markets have responded to Jokowi’s win, while at celebratory rallies the president elects’ campaign volunteers and general supporters call for a new era of self-empowerment and active civic engagement among the masses to keep the populist momentum going. With two different portions of society who have opposing self-interests both hailing the electoral success of the humble furniture maker from the riverbank slums of Solo, we’ll have to wait and see which way Jokowi swings as time goes on.

Flags at Proclamation Monument Jokowi rally

Flags at Proclamation Monument Jokowi rally

On Tuesday July 22nd, day the KPU was scheduled to release the official national vote tally, everyone was prepped for violence in wake of final verdict. The National Police & Military (INP & TNI) made a strong showing in front of the KPU national headquarters, busting out riot control gear, RC surveillance drones, barbed wire, and armored vehicles with cannons read to spew streams of high pressure skin stripping water. Though Jokowi had called for his supporters to refrain from going to the streets in either celebration or anger, Prabowo had made no such statement and Jakarta was prepared for the worst. The media beat the heat by lounging under trees in front of the building. Like mosquitoes, they patiently waited for the mobs to arrive in a foul rage, so as to indulge themselves in a frenzy of action filled reporting on how Indonesia’s 7th presidential election went up in a smoky plume of fire, fists, tear gas, and police batons.

Riot gear ready for use outside KPU headquarters

Riot gear ready for use outside KPU headquarters

TNI officer poses

INP officer poses

Ambulance awaits potential violence

Ambulance awaits potential violence

But it wasn’t to be. The vote tally went on without a hitch, save for Prabowo “withdrawing” from the vote count and his representatives physically walking out of the KPU when it came apparent that they were going to lose. The evening culminated in reporters chuckling at Prabowo’s antics as they checked their Twitter feeds and Jokowi declaring victory atop a Pinisi traditional Indonesian ship in Sunda Kelapa Port in North Jakarta.

Press & TNI officers kixin' it

Press & INP officers kixin’ it

A beastly TNI crowd control vehicle

A beastly INP crowd control vehicle

Prior to camp-out-at-the-KPU-Tuesday, it had been a tense and tumultuous two weeks of vote counting and allegations of electoral tampering. Election Day on July 9th brought conflicting quick-count election predictions and both candidates claiming victory. The entire Jakarta Post office was glued to the televisions as Prabowo conducted a press release where he reiterated the ‘fact’ that he had received a mandate from the people to lead, citing the two quick counts that reported him to be in the lead, contrasting with the majority who accurately called it for Jokowi (the two pro-Prabowo survey companies would later be discredited for their lack of transparency with their data and methodology).  My colleagues watched in silence, snorting with laughter periodically as Prabowo continued on with his monologue of stubborn confidence built upon lies and distorted facts, shaking his fist at the Metro TV cameras in a very fitting tyrant manner. At first I thought it was his concession speech. I remember being confused, seeing as an early bow out would not only be a political blunder given that the official results weren’t scheduled to be released until the 22nd, but also completely out of character for Prabowo, a tantrum throwing child trapped in a 62 year old man’s body, who, for the last ten years, has been trying desperately to claw his way back into Indonesia’s halls of power after being discharged from the military shortly after Suharto’s bloody ousting. He wouldn’t lie down that easy. That’s more like it, I thought upon learning the true nature of his speech. There is the Prabowo I’ve come to know in all his self-imagined glory.

For a moment, it seemed like Prabowo and his gang of goons could actually orchestrate enough chaos and confusion to swipe the election right out of the hands of Indonesian voters. Tall tales of bizarre irregularities stinking of malicious manipulation quickly began to surface from across Indonesia from both the Jokowi and Prabowo camps, though I somewhat absolve Jokowi from the potential wrongs. His campaign was so chaotically disorganized and decentralized in its power structure that he can hardly be blamed for what some of his supporters did of their own accord, while any actions from Prabowo’s well oiled machine most certainly came from him and his inner circle. As for the electoral fraud: 17 polling stations in the island of Madura in East Jawa all reported that Prabowo had won 100% of the votes, despite the fact that the area is supposed to be a hotbed for influential pro-Jokowi political parties such as the Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P). Overseas, Indonesian voters in Hong Kong were denied access to the democratic process by suddenly shuttered polling stations. People claimed that vote tallies at poling stations were inflated for a certain candidate and deflated for the other. It was extremely hard to confirm anything, with news reports lacking hard evidence and simply disseminating allegations, while the KPU released vague statements of their commitment to neutrality. In retrospect the reported instances of fraud probably amounted to a fairly small number of votes in proportion to the millions of valid ones. But with rumors flying around claiming that Prabowo’s belligerent belief in his inevitable victory stemmed from his camp drowning the KPU in mountains of bribe money, and with the margin between the candidates being small, my concerns seemed valid.

In response, members of the general public stepped up to combat a seemingly crumbling democratic process. Individual polling stations submit tallies of their total recorded votes for both candidates via C1 forms. These forms are then scanned and uploaded by local poll administrators (KPPS) to the KPU website in PDF files, where anyone with an internet connection has access to them. Loosely organized networks of Indonesians began sifting through the slew of C1 forms, looking for irregularities and signs of tampering. Forms without the signatures of the ‘required’ on-site witnesses (one from each campaign camp) began popping up, particularly in Medura. Others were reported to list repeated names,  mass amounts of voters who were registered in different provinces than the ones they voted in, ballots showing up at polling stations with Prabowo’s face stamped all over them, and some C1 forms allegedly completely blank of any information save for the vote tallies, which were drastically skewed in a given candidates’ favor. The stories kept getting wilder. So people, many of which were previously unaffiliated with politics, began making Facebook groups and blogs for participants to upload share screen shots of the bizarre potentially fraudulent forms. Oddities were reported to the KPU for their assessment, and it was rumored that thousands of people were joining in on the collective effort. One Facebook page, Jaga Suara Pemilu (Guard the Votes), boasted having admins working in several different continents, ranging from North America to Europe, while Elisa Sutanudjaja, a Jakarta based C1 form scanning guru who has been doing this since the Legislative elections last spring, said she was coordinating hundreds of fellow volunteers in conducting the . My editor at City Desk was particularly excited about all of this. “It’s unprecedented,” she said. At the JakPost office no one could get through to anyone at the KPU on anything related to the allegations, let alone their reaction to these digital electoral vigilantes.

So last week Marina and I (a befriended Jokowi volunteer) trudged to the offices of Indonesia’s various institutions who handle these kinds of election shenanigans. She was looking for more information on the KPU and Election Supervisory Committee (BAWASLU) response to the reports which she would distribute to the Jokowi volunteer network via Whatsapp. I was looking for a few quotes to be handed over to the National Desk to get wrapped up in someone else’s article for the next day’s paper.

We met with Sigit Jojowardono, KPU Chief of the Technical Bureau of Elections. He lead us through the cluttered hallways of the KPU’s national headquarters in Jakarta and into his office, while a posse of pro-Prabowo supporters shrieked into bullhorns outside the building, calling for the KPU to “penalize” the overwhelming majority of quick-count survey institutions that [correctly] called the election for Jokowi. After making our way into his dimly lit office, Sigit sits us down. He is essentially the big man for the technical operations aspect of organizing Indonesia’s presidential voting process, but his responses to alleged manipulation were less than comforting. Not only did he illustrate his disconnect with the situation by saying he just learned of any reports of fraud (let alone the 17 suspect polling stations in Madura) from us, a reporter and a Jokowi volunteer, he didn’t see much of an issue with the C1 form oddities. “It’s not a problem if they don’t have witnesses,” he said dismissively, easing back into his shiny leather arm chair. Even after being told about the strong PDI-P presence in Madura he maintained “There probably wasn’t any manipulation [in the 17 Medura polling stations]”. He added that the public is responsible for monitoring the vote tally, and flip flopped continuously, going on to say that witnesses were most definitely required.

Marina’s face was one of horrified bewilderment. Was this seemingly confused bureaucrat really in charge of orchestrating the entire vote count? Of course we would learn later on that the KPU merely counts the vote totals once they reach the provincial level nationally, and have no actual disciplinary authority until recommendations are made by BAWASLU. But his clueless demeanor and lack of seriousness had both me and Marina unsettled, given his position within the agency. The JakPost quoted the KPU commissioner Ferry Kurnia Rizkiyansyah as saying that the commission “wouldn’t risk its credibility by allowing vote manipulation to occur on a wide scale.” It was good to hear someone in that office was actually reading the newspapers, disregarding the fact that he was more concerned about institutional credibility than the sanctity of the voting process.

BAWASLU, being the stern parent in the family Indonesian electoral management and monitoring institutions, gave us more reassuring answers. After drearily stumbling into their office, we obtained a phone number for a Mr. Nelson, a high-ranking official in the institution’s Division of [Electoral] Law and Fraud. We interviewed him in a taxi, trying to ask pointed questions while giving our driver directions for navigating Jakarta’s horrendous rush hour traffic. He said BAWASLU knew about the allegations and was coordinating with the TNI and on the ground polling administrators, apparently were tipped off by reports from the citizen C1 form scrutinizing efforts.

“There HAS to be a witness,” exclaimed Enggartiaso Lukito in response to Sigit’s statements. He is a NasDem party member and the coordinator of a massive independent national vote count network for the Jokowi campaign. He stood outside a large conference room in the party’s Jakarta headquarters, where their own vote count was being conducted. The doors to the room were guarded by two cold-faced muscle men, holding back the media who wanted a peek at the “war room” and overkill wall-to-wall array of televisions displaying election returns from various provinces, districts, sub-districts, cities, and villages. He said that the citizen monitoring had been extremely helpful in identifying voting issues. He also stressed security concerns surrounding the data. “Currently, 9 hackers are trying to get into our system,” said Eggartiaso. It sounded outlandish, especially coming from a partisan source who is an open member of Jokowi’s political coalition. But other election monitoring entities claimed to have been similarly attacked. Kawal Pemilu, a vote counting system which enabled the public to manually and tediously tally votes from each KPU C1 form, crowd-sourced data which was compiled on the site, repeatedly reported digital assaults in the form of DDOS attacks and went offline several times in the days leading up to the 22nd. Kawal Suara (guard the votes) reported similar incidents and “thousands of intentionally wrong data entries”. The attacks allegedly originated from within Indonesia. Somewhere in the sprawling archipelago in a dank, dark, and smoky basement littered with volumes containing the names of blacklisted human rights activists, relatives of former PKI communists, and journalists, Prabowo’s well-paid tech-savvy peons frantically typed away on keyboards, desperately trying to suppress the public’s yearning for a clean and honest election. Kopassus military thugs watched them closely, fingering their pistol triggers while Rob Allyn, the American flack that Prabowo hired for his campaign counted his earnings in a corner before catching the next flight out of the country.

Enggartiasto Lukito in the NasDem "war room"

Enggartiasto Lukito in the NasDem Party “war room”

Up until this moment, despite the KPU returns and the public crowd sourced tallies, and all the evidence to the contrary, Prabowo refuses to acknowledge his defeat. He plans to file a lawsuit with the constitutional court, calling for a re-vote in over 50,000 polling stations where they say serious questionable irregularities occurred. His allegations range from New Mandala reported his campaign spokesman, Tantowi Yahya as saying their camp was refraining from revealing evidence for the rampant fraud due to “strategy”.  It’s only fair for the legal process to give him a chance to make his case, but given his history and personal character, the charge comes off as desperate attempt by a shameless sore loser to win an already decided game. He is someone who will do or say anything to obtain power. His pseudo Suharto family never taught him that sometimes you don’t get everything you ask for.

Seeing as the 22nd was devoid of any publicly displayed joyful raucousness from the Jokowi camp on request of their candidate, a rally was coordinated by 14 campaign volunteer groups and general supporters to take place at Tugu Proklamasi (Proclamation Monument) in Jakarta, the spot where Soekarano read the Indonesian declaration of independence in 1945. In the moment it was a magical and hopeful atmosphere. Bands and musicians hyped up the crowd while Jokowi volunteers read aloud over speakers a proud manifesto of values and reforms they support, including political and religious pluralism, environmental protection, universal free education, and government transparency. The document was to also serve as a “criteria” by which to hold both Jokowi and the general government accountable, should the president elect stray from the values that got him elected, in addition to a declaration of solidarity with his platform.



A group of deaf Jokowi volunteers show solidarity

A group of deaf Jokowi volunteers show solidarity




But what was truly inspiring were the outspoken passionate calls for “revolusi mental”, for Indonesians to undergo a transformation and mobilize into actively engaged citizens with “political awareness and consciousnesses,” as said by Hilmar Farid, a member of Seknas Jokowi, a volunteer group which helped organize the event. “Jokowi can not do this by himself,” said Hilmar. “What he’s [Jokowi] aiming [for] is a great change in the way this country is handled, and participation is necessary.” He described this moment as the beginning of a “bond” being built between the people and Jokowi, who together will be able to field greater political and social change on both the grassroots and bureaucratic level, a dynamic which is claimed to be revolutionary by Hilmar and the like.”You will never see this [the event’s enthusiasm] at a normal party gathering or a official function of the government,” he said.



It’s hard not to look at Jokowi’s success and the surrounding public enthusiasm through a lens of cynicism. The majority of his campaign funding came from the coalition of political parties that support him with the rest from a combination of corporate and individual donors. Recent cuts to state public funding for party financing in Indonesia have been notorious for producing rampant political favors and corruption. But, from what I’ve been told by many experienced journalists during my time with Jokowi’s campaign, is that he had the parties running to his feet, particularly Megawati and the PDI-P, his primary backers, who were initially reluctant to endorse the potlical outsider until they saw the magnitude of public support that he mustered.The Parliament may prove to be difficult for Jokowi to work around too, with it being heavily dominated by Golkar and Prabowo’s Gerindra party. But he has the people on his side, which has to count for something. Rumors are already circling of the Democratic Party and Golkar jumping ship from Prabowo’s supposedly ‘permanent coalition’ due to Jokowi’s popularity.

Young girl watches Jokowi while photographer gets the shot

Young girl watches Jokowi while a photographer gets the shot

Back in May of this year Jokowi published an editorial in Kompas titled “Revolusi Mental”, which laid out his views, values, and vision for Indonesia. Many of his points in the op-ed which he later pressed in his campaign, are too on point to dismiss. He discusses how even though institutionally and on paper Indonesia has gone through reformasi (reform), corrupt and oppressive mindsets from the Suharto era still linger, tainting what progress has been made with opportunistic greed, self-interest, intolerance, and the use of violence to settle conflicts. To address this, he proposes to begin at the roots, and overhaul and reform education starting at the elementary school level, redesigning curriculum to prioritize the fostering of creativity, critical thinking, and civic engagement rather than purely the memorization of facts. He goes on to slam overly liberal economic policies which leave Indonesia “dependent on foreign capital” and vulnerable to international corporations which strip the country of valuable resources, causing environmental destruction and producing few long-term jobs for locals while profits get sent overseas. People criticized him for having a ghost writer produce the editorial, but the ideas are his, even if kinks in the language were evened out by someone else.

Jokowi and supporters hold up three fingers to symbolize unity in wake of election decisiveness.

Jokowi and supporters hold up three fingers to symbolize unity in wake of election divisions

Marina describes Jokowi as being a man with stead-fast values, one who is not easily bought by donors lobbying for special interests. And while that claim in itself is not reason enough to trust his ability stay above the fray of corruption, his actions and rhetoric up until now have been promising. I’ll admit I was unnecessarily harsh on his work in the Pluit reservoir and Muara Baru area. Upon going to the low-income housing projects that he had built for the relocated residents from the flood prone reservoir banks, I found the complexes to be very clean, well constructed, and the people to be happy with their new accommodations, save for the water supply, which is apparently pumped straight in from the reservoir (which is still contaminated) and is unusable for most daily needs, though I imagine the responsibility for this major oversight lies with the contractors and North Jakarta’s unreliable water utility infrastructure. The people have been relying on private vendors for the time being. The park that replaced the waterside slums is regularly used by those same residents, and is home to a futsal court and plenty of open grass covered ground that looks out over the reservoir which is now mostly free of hyacinth plants, an invasive water based species which contribute to trash buildups and mosquito breeding. The project seems to have been, for the most part, a success.

Jokowi appears to be committed to maintaining public participation. He showed up at the Proclamation Monument rally to show solidarity with the volunteers and their manifesto. Within the last few days his official Facebook page has released a survey titled “People’s Choice for an Alternative Cabinet” to get feedback from the public on picking potential members of the 35-person cabinet, his first order of business as president once he is inaugurated in October. Harim said that organizing public pressure and scrutiny of the cabinet selection will also be the first collective effort on part of the volunteer organizations to make sure the final picks reflect their manifesto’s “criteria”. He said that both Jokowi and the his supporters envision the government to be a “people’s government”, one with consistent upward pressure from the bottom to push for reform and tangible change. Let’s hope that vision can be realized.

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