Wednesday of this week marked the conclusion of my internship at MK. Because of the upcoming elections and the court’s dealings with election disputes, Mr. Sec Gen asked me to conduct a presentation about the presidential election process and federal election disputes in the U.S. to MK’s researchers and registrars. Needless to say, I knew nothing about election disputes (outside of Bush v. Gore), but after a few days of research, I think I was able to convince them otherwise.
Although it felt like I had just started at MK, it was time to move on to the next stage of my internship. Perludem, which stands for Perkumpulan Untuk Pemilu dan Demokrasi (Organization for Elections and Democracy) was initially founded as a forum of exchanging ideas, but they were later asked by voters to take a more serious role in working on election issues. Today they are very active in monitoring elections, educating voters, and conducting legal research in order to provide recommendations to MK, among other institutions. Ironically, on my first day, I accompanied Perludem members to MK where we attended the Presidential Election trial that I mentioned in my earlier post. Following that, we went to a press conference where Perludem’s director and executive director released information regarding campaign violations committed by both presidential candidates, Joko “Jokowi” Widodo and Prabowo Subianto.
Some of Jokowi’s violations include placing campaign fliers on trees, while Prabowo supporters (primarily the military) are reportedly using intimidation tactics to ensure that their candidate wins.
It was a SUPER exciting time to be involved with Perludem because the 3rd Indonesian presidential election took place on July 9, 2014. The build-up to the election was very intense. As I mentioned earlier, there were only two candidates, each of whom had the support of roughly half of the population, making for a highly polarized nation. In fact, many sources alleged that the country has never been so divided since the 1998 reform movement that put an end to Soeharto’s dictatorship.
I’m not going to hide the ball here… I am very pro-Jokowi and here’s why:
Prabowo was dishonorably discharged from active military service following his role in the abduction of youth leaders, pro-democracy activists, and political opponents to the Suharto regime. An estimated 23 protesters were forcibly taken at gunpoint, nine of whom were released and later testified that they had been tortured (the remaining 14 were never found). This alarms me. It also alarms me that—according to Perludem—military supporters of Prabowo were threatening to start riots similar to those in 1998 (if you aren’t familiar with that particular event, you should really look it up) if he didn’t win. Naturally, I wondered why people would even consider a candidate with such a questionable background, so I asked around.
People in favor of Prabowo felt that his strength and no-nonsense attitude would command respect from the international community. I learned that a number of Indonesians are worried that countries (namely the U.S.) might try to invade, and they need a strong leader to prevent this from happening. Additionally, conservative Muslims are suspicious of Jokowi’s religious beliefs and ethnicity. In other words, they think he is a Chinese Christian rather than an Indonesian Muslim (does this type of smear campaign sound familiar to any of my American friends…?).
Needless to say, election week was incredibly exciting, and Perludem staff constantly busy with reporting more campaign violation, hosting election observers from a variety of countries (including Myanmar, China, and Egypt), and patrolling the voting stations.
Most of you probably know by now that Jokowi won the majority of the votes (Yay!), but Prabowo refuses to accept this result (no surprise there). He claims that the election was rigged, so now he will take the dispute to MK to be decided.