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Rivals claim voter fraud as Prabowo stays on track to be Indonesia's next president

Straits Times - February 16, 2024

Hariz Baharudin, Jakarta – While signs indicate that Indonesian Defence Minister Prabowo Subianto will be the country's next president, not everyone is convinced, with some alleging that the election process has been unfair and dubbing it the "death of democracy".

Mr Prabowo is on course to win the election by a wide margin, election commission results showed on Feb 16 afternoon with about 51 per cent of votes counted. The final result is not expected until March, but early indications point to the former general succeeding popular outgoing leader Joko Widodo.

Mr Prabowo leads with 56.85 per cent of votes, more than twice his nearest rival, according to the election commission's website.

Meanwhile, vote share for former Jakarta governor Anies Baswedan, an independent candidate, stood at 25.15 per cent on Feb 16, and former Central Java governor Ganjar Pranowo, the candidate fielded by the ruling Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), had 18 per cent.

Neither candidate has conceded defeat, with their campaign officers alleging that there has been voter fraud despite independent analysts finding no such evidence so far.

Local media reported that representatives from the two camps have met several times following the release of sample counts which prompted Mr Prabowo to declare victory late on Feb 14.

Secretary-general of PDI-P Hasto Kristiyanto told reporters in Jakarta on Feb 15 that "a special team" will be formed with members of Mr Anies' campaign team, but did not provide further details.

The head of the legal team for Mr Anies, Mr Ari Yusuf Amir, was quoted in media reports as saying that cheating has occurred, and the two sides will work together to address this.

"We have the same interest in upholding law and democracy, so we... have communicated with them. We have met several times, we will follow up later," Mr Ari said on Feb 16, referring to Mr Ganjar's campaign team.

The topic RIP Demokrasi has been trending on X since Mr Prabowo declared victory, and netizens have been voicing out unhappiness, with some of them alleging voter fraud.

Those like X user @Ilhamarief28 have spoken out against the elections and its results. In a tweet on Feb 14, posted shortly after sample counts showed Mr Prabowo in the lead, he posted the words "RIP (rest in peace) democracy".

"Now I understand why Indonesia has always been a developing country and has never progressed, apparently because most of its people have chosen not to progress," he said in the tweet that has been liked more than 24,000 times and shared by over 7,000 users.

Small-scale protests in Jakarta have been staged, with more than a hundred people gathering on Feb 15 outside the presidential palace in the city late on Thursday. They were seen holding up yellow cards, blowing whistles and unfurling a banner that read "save democracy".

Among the reasons why @Ilhamarief28 and others have bemoaned the election process and its results are due to perceived interference by the establishment, particularly in the decision to greenlight the candidacy of Mr Prabowo's running mate, who is also the President's son, Solo Mayor Gibran Rakabuming Raka.

Mr Widodo, who remains very popular among Indonesians, did not officially endorse anyone in the race to succeed him. But his son's decision to be Mr Prabowo's running mate is widely seen as a presidential seal of approval.

Critics have also alleged that Mr Widodo had been deploying populist programmes purportedly in support of Mr Prabowo's presidential bid, ranging from cash handouts to soothe the effects of climate change on low-income farmers, to the first pay rise for civil servants in five years.

On Feb 15, Mr Widodo said that he had met Mr Prabowo and Mr Gibran the night before and congratulated them, after quick counts of election results showed that they were expected to win the presidential race in a single round of voting.

He also tackled the issue of voter fraud head-on, calling on Indonesians to take action and submit evidence of voter fraud, if they had any.

"Don't say loudly it's a fraud. If there was fraud, bring it to Bawaslu," he said, referring to the nation's election supervisory body. "If there was fraud, bring it to the Constitutional Court."

Source: https://www.straitstimes.com/asia/se-asia/rivals-claim-voter-fraud-as-prabowo-stays-on-track-to-be-indonesia-s-next-presiden