Center for World Conflict and Peace

Center for World Conflict and Peace

Friday, July 11, 2014

Ten Things That We Learned From Indonesian Presidential Election 2014 (So Far!)

1. Indonesian democracy is doing better than expected (so far)

Even though the result from the Indonesian Presidential Election is currently in dispute, the silver lining is that so far both sides remain calm, haven't resorted to force, and more importantly, are willing to wait until the Election Commission announces the official result on July 22. The fact that both sides remain peaceful mean that both candidates agree that the electoral process and its institutions are legitimate. For all of this, we should give the credit to...

2. President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono is doing a good job so far

Whether you think President Yudhoyono is a good president or not, it cannot be denied that he managed to maintain order during the entire electoral process. Even though many criticized his last-minute throw of support to Prabowo Subianto, he has so far managed to keep the institutions of the presidency, military, and police force neutral, preventing the situation from spiraling out of control.

Of course the question is what will happen after the Election Commission releases its official result on July 22. The losers will cry foul and the President, considered by many as wishy-washy, might have to act decisively -- because that will have major impacts on his legacy and reputation.

3. People don't trust the General Elections Commission (KPU)

Which may sound contradictory considering that above I mentioned that all sides regard the electoral institution as legitimate. That, however, does not mean that the people trust the commission. Citizens were warned to check their ballot before voting in case of irregularities. There were accusations of ballot stuffing and other shenanigans going on, such as people receiving ballots with only one candidate, a hoax that was believed by many [link in Indonesian]. More importantly, the disputed incident in Hong Kong, gave the impression to Jokowi's voters that the Commission was slanted in favor of Prabowo. 

And keep in mind even the institutions doing the quick count declared that the commission could be at fault should the commission in the end declare Prabowo the winner [link in Indonesian]. And the KPK sternly warned the commission and its counterpart, Elections Monitoring Body (Banwaslu) against vote rigging.  

This was the main reason why Megawati Sukarnoputri jumped the gun, declaring victory even before the results were in during the election day, which in turn angered Prabowo, who believed that Megawati was going to steal the election, because....

4. Many do not understand a "quick count" and how statistics (or math) works

Math is hard!

Done right, a quick count is a great asset for democracy, as it provides control against governments, or anyone else, attempting to steal an election. Done wrong, it creates uncertainties and lack of trust even in legitimate survey institutions. This is what happens in Indonesia, where there are terrible survey institutions masquerading as legitimate outfits, which causes confusion, especially among people lacking knowledge in how statistics works -- and these outfits are paid handsomely for this.

Such chaos would not have happened had anyone or any body, including the Elections Commission, already threw the book at them: these outfits had a track record of manipulating the results of surveys (not to mention giving wildly off-the mark results). But in Indonesia, people generally never try to rock the boat, until... well... shit hits the fan.

5. Horse-trading remains a popular sport

Already, Golkar, a member in Prabowo's coalition, signaled its willingness to switch sides and join Jokowi's administration, should Jokowi finally prevail. Of course, nobody raises an eyebrow, because, well, this is Indonesia.

Expect more horse-trading later, especially as both Jokowi and Prabowo pursue their options.

6. Yes, money matters, but....

But it is more important to know how to use money effectively. Nobody could fault Prabowo in this regard. Prabowo managed to make the race so competitive thanks to his ability to spend money wisely: building a strong organization for campaigning and mobilizing voters, and launching attack ads that questioned Jokowi's ability to govern. In essence, Prabowo knows how to run a great campaign and regardless of whether he wins or loses, students of politics should study his campaign as an example of how to run an effective campaign. 

7. Also black campaigns are here to stay, whether you like it or not

Because it works against unprepared, incompetent and disorganized oppositions.  In fact, one of very few reasons Jokowi won was....

8. Spontaneous, highly motivated grass root support matters

Without political idealists--these highly dedicated people volunteering their time and money--it is doubtful hat Jokowi could prevail in such a tight and ugly race. The volunteers essentially did what the PDI-P failed to do: to mobilize voters and counter negative and black campaigns on Jokowi.

9. Presidential debates help

While presidential debates only change the mind of few voters, they do help to galvanize the supporters of the winning side of the debate. The debates also provided opportunities for Jokowi to regain the momentum from Prabowo -- and missed opportunity for Prabowo to prove that Jokowi was simply not a good presidential candidate.

10. And of course, a little bit of luck always helps

Nobody expected the fiasco of the polling in Hong Kong, and what happened there remains in dispute. And yet, the fiasco, it seems, led to quite a turnout from the Jokowi voters.

And we end this list with a song.