Facing violent protests from election losers

 On Minggu, 06 April 2014  

Facing violent protests from election losers

Kornelius Purba  ;   Senior managing editor at The Jakarta Post
JAKARTA POST, 06 April 2014
A Jakarta-based foreign journalist recently described his difficulties in explaining to newspaper readers about the 12 political parties that are participating in the April 9 legislative election. His editor asked him to write an article explaining the unique characteristics of the election contenders. He categorized them into two groups: Secular and Islamic parties.

“My editor turned down my report because, according to him, the secular and Islamic parties are very similar to each other,” he explained.

I urged him to explain why the editor concluded that secular parties like the Democratic Party and the Golkar Party are not significantly different to the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS).

“They are all equally crazy in committing corruption,” the journalist laughed.

We do not need to conduct a thorough study to find the truth in such a sarcastic conclusion. It is a common perception in all levels of society that most Indonesian legislators at city, provincial and national levels are lazy, corrupt, irresponsible and greedy.

Civil society organizations have worked hard to help voters by enlisting candidates who have good track records although their names are almost unknown. Though this is helpful for many people, it is not without problems, as in my own case. I have a friend who I would like to represent me in the city council because of his social work. However, I discounted his name because he represented a party that was founded by a leader who has a horrifying track record in human rights.

It is not impossible that voter turnout will be low on Wednesday because many think voting is just a waste of time and they are indifferent about the “fiesta of democracy”.

I have always told my three children to exercise their voting rights no matter how pessimistic they are about their country. For me, one vote really matters. In my view it is immoral for voters to complain about the government and the state if they decline to use their privilege to vote.

The decision of Megawati Soekarnoputri to nominate Jakarta Governor Joko “Jokowi” Widodo as the candidate of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) in the July presidential election was a big boost for encouraging people to vote. Jokowi is likely the only potential presidential candidate who owes nothing to Soeharto’s regime.

So far Jokowi is the strongest candidate in the July race. Many first-time or young voters are eager to support the PDI-P on April 9 because they want their favorite candidate be able to fulfill the requirements -- 25 percent of the total vote or 20 percent of seats in the House of Representatives -- to contest as the party’s representative, without the obligation to form a coalition with other political parties.

On Wednesday evening, we will get enough of an indication about the winners of the legislative election. The winners will celebrate their victory, and the losers (individuals or organizations) will likely try to find scapegoats. Learning from the experience of local elections, where losers often staged noisy and even violent protests, it is very likely similar incidents will occur again. They will blame cheating as the only reason for their failure. However, the protests will likely be sporadic, because people will prefer to keep their distance from the losers.

There is still another potential source of disaster: The Constitutional Court. The court lost its credibility following the arrest and trial of its former chairman Akil Mochtar, who allegedly accepted billions of rupiah from winners and losers of local elections. The court was once regarded as being among the few state institutions, along with the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK), that still have credibility in the eyes of the people.

The court’s justices have the potential to abuse their power by enriching their own families or helping their political connections. The probability of this occurring is quite high.

The General Elections Commission (KPU) faces pressure to prove that it is indeed an independent institution. Temptation is very high among its commissioners because they could accept money or government positions from individuals or political parties if they helped to manipulate election results.

The situation in Aceh is worrying too. Aceh is the only province with the privilege of having its own local political parties. The local elites, however, are facing horizontal conflicts. Unlike in the past, Acehnese people cannot blame the central government if violence erupts after the election. They must blame their own leaders for shooting or killing one another.

Jokowi will likely be able to contest the presidential election without the assistance of other parties. Many people are asking about his running mate for the July race. One thing is sure; the founder of the Gerindra Party, Prabowo Subianto, will not accept such a position. But let us wait until after the legislative election to discuss the vice presidential candidate.

For the fourth time since the nation forced Soeharto to end his iron-fist rule in May 1998, Indonesia will hold a legislative election. On Wednesday, Jakarta’s voters will have the right -- in Indonesia voting is a right not an obligation, though persuading other people not to use their constitutional right is a crime -- to decide who will represent them in the city council, the House and the arguably useless Regional Representatives Council (DPD).

Indonesian people have proved to the world that they are as civilized as other people in other democratic countries in adopting democratic principles. Our biggest problem is the immature, selfish and greedy political elites who are never prepared to accept their failures. The nation must be ready to face the impact of protests from the election’s losers.
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Facing violent protests from election losers 4.5 5 Arjuna Cellular Minggu, 06 April 2014 Facing violent protests from election losers Kornelius Purba  ;     Senior managing editor at The Jakarta Post JAKARTA POST, 06 A...

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