Jakarta – With only two weeks left until Indonesia's presidential election on April 17, it is only natural for supporters of both presidential nominees – current president Joko "Jokowi" Widodo and his rival, ex-army general Prabowo Subianto – to ramp up their rhetoric. But the latest salvo from Prabowo's camp may have just gone more than a little over the top.
Former People's Consultative Assembly chairman and senior opposition leader Amien Rais on Sunday (31/03) threatened to organize a mass protest at the slightest hint of voter fraud during the presidential election, declaring that he will rely on "people power" to protest rather than going to the Constitutional Court.
"If fraud happens [in the election], we will not go to the Constitutional Court. There is no point. We are people power. People power is legitimate!" Amien Rais said at the Sunda Kelapa mosque in Central Jakarta.
His statement came during a rally dubbed "Apel Siaga 313" attended by members of the Indonesian Muslim Forum (FUI) and Islamic Defenders Front (FPI), who marched from the Sunda Kelapa mosque to the nearby General Elections Commission (KPU) office to call on opposition supporters to closely monitor election proceedings and prevent voter fraud from happening.
Constitutional Court spokesman Fajar Laksono said he regretted Amien's remarks. Fajar said Amien's statement might cast doubt on all the work they had put to in to improve public trust on the Constitutional Court and could be considered as contempt of court.
He also pointed out that when he was chairman of the People's Consultative Assembly, Amien actually took part in establishing the Constitutional Court.
The Election Supervisory Board (Bawaslu) considered Amien's plan to mobilize "people power" as "illegitimate."
Bawaslu official Rahmat Bagja said the 2017 Election Law stipulates that the Constitutional Court holds the final say on electoral disputes. "[The law] was made and agreed by all factions of the DPR [House of Representatives]. Every citizen must comply with it," Bagja said.
Indonesian Solidarity Party (PSI) spokesman and legislative candidate Rian Ernest urged Amien to stop adding fuel to the fire in an already heated presidential race. He said that as an icon of the 1998 Reformasi movement, Amien should set an example for the current generation.
In the chaotic days before New Order dictator Suharto decided to resign on May 21, 1998, Amien had also threatened to stage a one million-strong "people power" demonstration at the National Monument in Jakarta, before a warning from the army that the protest may turn into Indonesia's own Tiananmen massacre forced him to shelf the plan.
"Political elites must set an example. Besides, Amien is not only part of the political elite but was also part of the Reformasi movement. Political elites must set an example instead of playing the provocateur," Rian said on Monday.
He said people power had been used to overthrow dictators in other countries, but that Indonesia, however, is not a dictatorship. "Who has the potential of becoming a dictator? That person may be who Amien is defending and supporting," Rian said.
Rian said Amien's statement was part of the opposition's strategy to weaken public trust of state apparatuses, but he was convinced that Prabowo will not support it. "I am sure Prabowo is a statesman who competes fairly, unlike what Amien has been trying to do with his comments," he said.
In the 2014 presidential election, which also matched up Jokowi against Prabowo, quick counts showed a clear victory for the former, but Prabowo's camp called the results unconstitutional and demanded a recount.
They launched an official challenge at the Constitutional Court, but the lawsuit was rejected and the court declared the election free of any fraud.
Today, Prabowo is still trailing Jokowi by a double-digit gap in the polls. A poll by Indo Barometer put support for Jokowi and his running mate, cleric Ma'ruf Amin, at 51 percent and for Prabowo and his billionaire running mate Sandiaga Uno at 32 percent among likely voters. The poll was conducted between March 15 and 21, with a margin of error of 2.8 percent.
The Indonesian Survey Circle (LSI) also put Jokowi in the driving seat ahead of the election. 1,200 respondents for a poll conducted between March 18 and 26, turn out support for Jokowi at 56.8-63.2 percent and for Prabowo at 36.8-43.2 percent – a 20 percent lead for the incumbent president.