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Stability during vote count

Jakarta Post Editorial - February 20, 2024

Jakarta – Despite a fired-up presidential race that saw candidates battle intensely in order to prevail, especially in densely populated Java, Indonesia enjoyed a peaceful general election last Wednesday.

However, the democratic process is far from over as the General Elections Commission (KPU) is currently counting ballots from all parts of the country and overseas manually before it announces the official results of the elections before March 20.

While the election bodies, including the watchdog Bawaslu, are doing their job, it is important that the government, state apparatus, presidential candidates and their supporters maintain the country's political and economic stability.

The current rice shortage, which began just a few days before voting day on Feb. 14, must be handled immediately. State-owned logistics company Bulog, along with the police and local administrations, must ensure that rice stocks are delivered to retail shops in cities and regencies, not lingering in the warehouses of hoarders and the rice mafia.

The shortage, which occurred as soon as the government suspended distribution of rice aid for social assistance (Bansos), has led to speculation that the two events are correlated. The government, including President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo himself, has dismissed the allegations, saying that the general shortage of rice is due to flooding that has hit producing regions in Central Java.

But in the past, there have been cases where the rice mafia, which had access to government's rice stock, including that earmarked for social assistance, mixed it with commercial supplies and later repackaged and sold the basic commodity to retail markets. Several perpetrators of the practice were found guilty and jailed.

The retailers have admitted that they have been selling SPHP, the rice stock that Bulog distributes to stabilize supply and bring down prices. And since the current SPHP comes from imports, the quality of which is equivalent to that of local premium rice, the retailers have been selling it as premium rice

The shortage proves that something has gone wrong with the Bulog distribution system and the government must fix this as soon as possible. Failure to do so will exacerbate the shortage and spark anxiety among the people and may disrupt the vote-tallying process and political stability alike.

Quick counts by pollsters place presidential ticket Prabowo Subianto-Gibran Rakabuming Raka on top with an unassailable lead of 58 percent of the vote, while Anies Baswedan-Muhaimin Iskandar and Ganjar Pranowo-Mahfud MD garnered 25 percent and 17 percent, respectively.

An ongoing online tally at KPU website, pemilu2024.kpu.go.id, also shows that Prabowo-Gibran is leading with 58.55 percent, while Anies-Muhaimin is trailing a distant second with 24.27 percent and Ganjar-Mahfud at 17.18 percent. As of Monday afternoon, the KPU had collected data from 71 percent of over 820,000 polling stations.

An independent count by Kawal Pemilu, which is based on C1 vote tabulation forms scanned by volunteers from polling stations, confirmed that Prabowo-Gibran is leading with 54.89 percent, Anies-Muhaimin and Ganjar-Mahfud follow with 28.86 percent and 16.16 percent respectively. As of Monday morning, it had collected data from a third of polling stations.

While these results have shown a clear win for Prabowo-Gibran, there are allegations of intimidation and violations, which is quite common after voting day. It is, nonetheless, important for the election bodies to address these cases to ensure accountability and public trust in the elections.

From the beginning there have been accusations that President Jokowi meddled too much with the electoral process because his son, Gibran, ran with Prabowo. Jokowi was heavily criticized for his apparent preference for Prabowo and his frequent visits to regions in Central Java and East Java, distributing Bansos during the campaign season.

The President must watch his steps carefully now more than ever, otherwise, all of his achievements and credibility that he has built during the decade of his presidency may vanish overnight.

Jokowi must be at the forefront in safeguarding a fair and peaceful post-ballot process until the KPU declares the new leaders and proves the legitimacy of the election results in court.

Source: https://www.thejakartapost.com/opinion/2024/02/20/stability-during-vote-count.htm