Jokowi Declared Indonesia’s Next President as Prabowo Protests

  • Photo courtesty of Hendrick Mintarno's Flickr photostream,
    Jul 22, 2014

    Indonesia’s Election Commission announced earlier today that Jakarta governor Joko “Jokowi” Widodo, a 53-year-old former furniture exporter, had snared a victory in the country’s July 9 presidential elections with a margin of more than 6 percent, or 8 million votes, over his rival, former general Prabowo Subianto.
    But shortly before the results were announced, Prabowo declared that he was rejecting the election process and withdrew his witnesses monitoring the vote count. In a speech, he claimed “massive, structural, and systematic cheating,” adding that his team “will exercise our constitutional right to reject the presidential election and declare it unconstitutional.”

    The Jakarta Composite index dropped 1.5 percent and the rupiah fell after Prabowo’s surprising announcement.  Before the election results were released, several thousand police with water cannons and armored personnel carriers surrounded the Election Commission headquarters and nearby streets were closed.  Some Prabowo supporters held a peaceful protest near the Election Commission building and chanted “Prabowo is the real president.”

    Q1: So what’s next?  Is the contest over?

    A1: That is not entirely clear. Indonesia, the world’s third largest democracy, is now in unprecedented territory for the 16-year-old democracy.  Several days before the final count, Prabowo said he would appeal what he believed to be irregularities in the election process to the Constitutional Court, the country’s top court for handling election disputes.

    But since then Prabowo’s advisers have sent contradictory signals about whether they will still launch an appeal, call on election supervision agencies to investigate irregularities, or pursue some other unspecified path. It is also not clear that Prabowo could still mount a legal appeal after withdrawing his candidacy, since that could nullify his standing to bring a case. If he doesn’t challenge the results in court, the Election Commission’s count will be final. One of the leaders of Prabowo’s Gerindra party said they would not accept the Election Commission’s results and would continue to fight “in a non-violent way,” without spelling out what that meant.

    Prabowo now plans to hold a press conference on at 10:30 a.m., July 23, in Jakarta (11:30 p.m., July 22 in Washington) to announce his team’s next steps.

    Q2:  How are Prabowo’s electoral allies responding?

    A2: President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, whose two terms end in October and whose Democratic Party backed Prabowo in the closing days of the campaign, said a day before the election results were announced that “accepting defeat is noble.” He added that “congratulating the victor is beautiful.” Prabowo’s campaign manager Mahfud MD told the press the day before the election results were released that Prabowo had lost.

    Prabowo’s vice presidential running mate Hatta Rajasa, who is chair of the National Mandate Party (PAN) that joined with the former general’s Gerindra party in the campaign, may be in the process of distancing himself from Prabowo.  Hatta did not appear at the speech when Prabowo blasted the election process and has not appeared at recent press conferences with him. Observers are watching to see what Hatta will say about the elections.

    And other defections are expected. During the campaign, Prabowo’s official coalition (which did not include the Democrats) controlled more than half of the seats in Parliament, but one of the first switches could come from the Golkar party. Current party chairman Aburizal Bakrie supported Prabowo against former Golkar chief Jusuf Kalla, Jokowi’s running mate. But other top Golkar members have declared in recent days that Kalla is one of their “best members” and have urged the party to move the date for its next convention forward to October, in what could be an effort to oust Bakrie.

    The United Development Party (PPP), an Islamic party which supported Prabowo, has also hinted that it may defect. Former party leader Hamzah Hax, who served as vice president during 2001-04, recently suggested that the party should join forces with Jokowi.

    If both Golkar and PPP joined Jokowi’s coalition, its strength would increase to 60 percent.  This would boost Jokowi’s support in Parliament reducing concerns in the market that the new president would have to run the country with a minority in the legislature.

    Q3:  What’s next for Jokowi?

    Q3:  Jokowi will be sworn in as president on October 20. He will now have to switch from running a campaign to forming a government. In Indonesia, with its complicated coalition politics, this is difficult. He will have to figure out which parties to lure into backing his government and who to include in his cabinet—a task that will be complicated by his promises on the campaign trail not to trade cabinet positions for support. Many analysts believe he will give coalition partners some of the less critical ministries while keeping the key economic ministries for technocrats.  

    One technocrat widely touted for a cabinet post includes Fauzi Ichasan, head of Jokowi’s banking advisory team and a long time senior economist at Standard Chartered Bank. He has a master’s degree in economics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Another is current finance minister Chatib Basri, who has held various advisory roles in the government and has a PhD from Australia National University. 

    Both would no doubt comfort the markets and foreign investors about the future direction of Indonesia’s macro economy and help convince them that Jokowi and his vice president, a former businessman, will work to address the country’s horrendous infrastructure problems and tackle the huge fuel subsidy bill which is hurting the national budget and current-account deficits.

    Q4: What do the election results mean for Indonesia’s democracy?

    Q4: Today’s announcement appears to highlight the further consolidation of Indonesia’s democracy and its institutions since the collapse of the authoritarian Suharto regime in 1998.  In the run up to the announcement, the blogosphere was lit up by foreign and Indonesian observers warning that the close-fought race could destabilize the country if the losing candidate refused to accept defeat. In particular, speculation was rife that Prabowo might try to steal the election or urge his supporters into the streets if he was defeated.  At least for now, those fears have not come to pass.

    Critical Questions is produced by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), a private, tax-exempt institution focusing on international public policy issues. Its research is nonpartisan and nonproprietary. CSIS does not take specific policy positions. Accordingly, all views, positions, and conclusions expressed in this publication should be understood to be solely those of the author(s).
    © 2013 by the Center for Strategic and International Studies. All rights reserved.

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Murray Hiebert