Death at the polls: A mystery in need of an inquiry

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Independent Observer

IO, Jakarta – Simultaneous elections were held on 17 April. After this once-every-5-years democratic process, we do not rejoice. How could we? The number of Voting Organizer Groups (Kelompok Penyelenggara Pemungutan Suara – “KPPS”) officials who died continues to rise. Until Monday (06/05/2019), the Election Commission (Komisi Pemilihan Umum – “KPU”) recorded 440 officials have died, and 3,788 fell ill. Furthermore, 92 members of the Elections Monitoring Committee (Panitia Pengawas Pemilihan Umum – “Panwaslu”) and 22 police officers have died. Our public questions the death of these officials and officers: “Is it true that their deaths were merely caused by exhaustion as stated by the Elections Commission (Komisi Pemilihan Umum – “KPU”) of the Republic of Indonesia, or were they caused by other factors?”

At the same time, suspicion of fraud continues. The National Committee to Elect Prabowo Subianto-Sandiaga Uno (Badan Pemenangan Nasional Prabowo-Sandi – “BPN Prabowo-Sandi”) reported suspicions of fraud relating to KPU’s Voting Information System (Sistem Informasi Penghitungan Suara – “Situng”). This report is meant to demand the Elections Monitoring Agency (Badan Pengawas Pemilihan Umum – “Bawaslu”) stop the Situng KPU process. “Today, Prabowo-Sandi IT Volunteer Team was present at Bawaslu to report suspicion of IT-related fraud by certain parties, in this case relating to the IT system in KPU,” said IT Volunteer Coordinator Mustofa Nahrawardaya at Bawaslu’s Office, Jalan MH Thamrin, Central Jakarta, on Friday (03/05/2019).

BPN submitted 73,715 suspicion of fraud items taken from the sampling from 477,021 Voting Stations (Tempat Pemungutan Suara – “TPS”) to Bawaslu. Mustofa stated that the total level of fraud is 15.4%. Furthermore, he stated that suspicion of this fraud is roused in every province in Indonesia, with the biggest number of occurrences in 5 provinces. “Therefore, we express the need to take legal action, especially to KPU. These 5 provinces are the biggest frequency of incidence among our samples: Central Java, which is the highest at 7,666 incidents; East Java, at 5,826 incidents; North Sumatra, at 4,327 incidents; South Sumatra, at 3,296 incidents; and South Sulawesi, at 3,219 incidents,” he said.

Suspicion of fraud that BPN discovered include, among others, are the number of citizens who voted is not equal to total votes counted; and that the total vote gained for 01 or 02 do not match. “First, the total vote and total voters do not match. Second, total vote does not match with total of valid votes plus invalid votes. Third, total valid votes do not match total valid votes for Candidate 01 plus Candidate 02,” he said. “Another anomaly is that the total vote does not match with total valid vote for Candidate 01, for Candidate 02, plus invalid votes. In other words, the total number of votes given to Candidate 01, votes given to Candidate 02, plus invalid votes do not match. It is interesting: total votes counted was 8,279, then votes for 01 exceed the recorded total voting attendance at 2,394, while votes for 02 exceed the recorded total voting attendance at 1,124,” he said.

Meanwhile, Presidential Candidate 02 Prabowo Subianto stated before international media that Presidential Election 2019 frauds are structured, systematic, and massive. “Essentially, we try to explain to the citizens of the world and of Indonesia, naturally, that we have undergone elections that are openly a fraud that deviates from the norms of democracy,” Prabowo said at Jalan Kertanegara,  Kebayoran Baru District, South Jakarta, on Monday (6/5/2019).

He also explained that the massive fraud is systemic, as can be seen from the undisguised mobilization of the police and other government institutions such as the intelligence agency. “This is all widely talked about, providing us with the proof that they (i.e. fraudsters) are law enforcement agencies. We have many proof and reports. The frauds involve voting forms, such as voting forms already marked prior to elections, such as in Malaysia, and many others,” he said.

Prabowo reiterated that democracy, with all the interests that it defends, is the only guarantee of peace in the political life of a nation, and that democracy is the mark of maturity of a nation. “It is a mark of maturity and civilization. Without democracy, succession of power generally ends with physical approach that are frequently brutal and violent. This is what we always try to avoid,” he said. However, Prabowo explains that some people are trying to destroy the democratic system in Indonesia by violating existing regulations.

Death of Hundreds of Officials

Dr. Umar Zein, Chairman of the Medical Professional Study Program of the Islamic University of North Sumatera Utara’s Faculty of Medicine, said in a talk with Independent Observer on Tuesday (07/05/2019) that it is medically impossible for mere exhaustion as cause of death. “Exhaustion might trigger an acute problem, or exacerbate a chronic illness that the person has been having for a long time. However, once again, this must be proven through a thorough medical examination,” he said.

He further cited the example found during the Dutch occupation: Daendels mobilized many enforced laborers to construct the Anyer-Panarukan Road. They were forced to work digging ditches, breaking rocks off the mountain ledges, and carry the required materials. “They worked day and night with irregular meals and rest. It was enforced labor after all. They would have endured exhaustion and malnutrition, hunger, and thirst, which weakened their immunity and caused them to fall sick. Many of these unfortunate workers suffered from tropical malaria, which caused seizures, a coma, and eventually death,” Umar Zein said.

On the other hand, Umar Zein explained that the electoral officers who work in TPS or elsewhere have a different condition. “They are given sufficient food and drink. This is not forced labor, so they have rest in rotation and they can get excused in emergencies,” he said. “Exhaustion by itself cannot directly cause a death. There are three “gates” of death in the human body, i.e. the brain, the heart, and the lungs. If the brain does not obtain sufficient oxygen for whatever reason, for example an embolism, brain cells would die but the patient would not die immediately. The human body has compensatory mechanisms to maintain the life of the remaining cells for a while. Even brainstem death is still a “medical death” – it takes several more hours before biological death, i.e. death after the heart and lungs stopped functioning.”

He further reiterated that even if a person suffers from heart failure, kidney failure, and liver failure simultaneously, they would not die immediately. The person might lapse into a coma first for several days, even more. He stated that the exhaustion of electoral officers would not have been even 1/1000 of the exhaustion suffered by enforced laborers during the Dutch occupation. The exhaustion probably simply triggered existing acute problems or chronic illness already suffered by the person. “Such cases require thorough medical examination. How come the media stated that many electoral officers have died of exhaustion? This is fooling the laypeople – those who know little or nothing about medical science,” he said. “Death is not so simple. Medically, sudden death is caused due to sudden interruption of the processes in the heart, lungs, brain, or a combination.”

Umar concluded that the hospital’s “honesty” concerning the cause of death is also important when issuing recommendation from health experts on how to prevent reoccurrence of this electoral tragedy among officials. “We will only issue a recommendation when investigations about it are concluded,” he said.

Similarly, to Umar Zein, dr. Ani Hasibuan, Cipto Mangunkusumo General Hospital’s neurologist, explained in the Catatan Demokrasi Kita (“Our Democratic Notes”) show at TV One that there is no such thing as death by exhaustion. The statement made by these two doctors belied KPU’s statement that these officials died of exhaustion. As a doctor who has been practicing for 22 years, she feels concerned about the high death toll. “Is this a massacre or an elections? How come there’s so many deaths? We should be joyful during elections, whether we want a new leader or continuing with an old one. Yet there are all of these deaths! When we talk about physiology, we would know that exhaustion is related to one’s physical condition. An exhausted person would be sleepy, hungry, and will lose consciousness if you force them to continue working, but not death. There are 7 officials appointed for each TPS, I don’t see any workload that would cause such exhaustion,” she said.

Ani visited the victims’ families in order to analyze their deaths. “I visited the families of 3 victims. They say that these officials were fine. The day after Elections, they started to get a headache, nauseated, they vomited, then died 2 days later. The second official was just sticking pain relief patch that night, then went home with complaints of stomach ache in the morning. They then went to the bathroom, then went to bed when their business was finished, and finally died before they had the chance to be hospitalized. On 18 April, the third official complained of a stomach ache and went to the hospital. They were hospitalized in the ICCU for 4 days, then died,” she said. 

Ani’s biggest concern is that more than 500 people died and the State does nothing, while we get busy saying #SaveParis and #SaveBrussels when these foreign cities far away were bombed. “I am a medical doctor, and suddenly KPU becomes a forensic expert that states that the cause of death is due to the exhaustion. Where is the proof of examination? More than 500 people died! According to my faith, killing even 1 person without reason is equal to killing the entire planet. And this is 500 deaths, and we are doing nothing…? I ask you as a doctor, as a common citizen, please check.  The family left behind by one of the dead officers comprises of 4 children, while the widow does not work. What will the State do about them?” she said.

Ani views the death of these KPPS officials as a proof of the State’s neglect. “I asked KPPS officials, “What are the medical requirements for becoming a KPPS official?” They stated that they only need to go to the local Community Clinic and request a health certificate, there is no need for them to have a medical checkup. If, for example, there are KPPS members who have kidney problems, they are not covered by insurance, then they are employed with extreme work overload. This is pure neglect. This involves the lives of citizens – the KPU must be held responsible,” she said firmly.

 Adhie M. Massardi, Coordinator of the Clean Indonesia Movements, the death of KPPS officials is both mysterious and pertinent, therefore it must be investigated. Because this is no ordinary death, there must be exceptional causes for their deaths. If we can expose it, it is a separate crime because the number is over 500 people already. Electoral organizers are definitely hiding something; therefore, they must eliminate witnesses. “These deaths are possibly related to the number of C1 Forms from elections in individual TPS. We suspect that they are trying to eliminate traces of wrongdoing, but we need autopsies before we can really tell what happened,” he said.

The fact that hundreds of officials have died is a note of concern for us all. We need to know why it happened. Wijayanto, Political and Media Researcher from the Department of Politics and Government of Diponegoro University, Semarang, notes that this is the highest number of deaths that occurred in comparison with previous elections, therefore there are many suspicions about it. After all, two elections – Legislative Election and Presidential Election – were held simultaneously. Furthermore, because our system is proportional open, we have many, large-sized voting forms, and there are many things to count. “Proportional open” means that whichever party obtains the most vote will be elected. Therefore, voting count will be delayed. Our electoral system also contributes to the death of these KPPS officials.

Wijayanto stated that only doctors can determine why so many KPPS officials died by performing autopsies on them. Yet if we note that on one aspect, our voting count system is complicated as the consequence of complexity in our electoral system, we can see that exhaustion is very much possible because KPPS officials must count so many voting forms. This has become more complicated, because each Legislative voting form contains a list of political parties fighting for seats in the Regional House of Representative Levels (regency, municipal, and provincial level) as well as the Central House of Representatives; while each listed political party also contains the names of several Legislative Candidates. They would need to count how many votes are gained by each Legislative Candidate from each Political Party in these four levels. They would also need to count the voting forms for the Regional Representative Council and voting forms for the President and Vice President. This is why the summary becomes delayed, and this is an important fact that cause KPPS officials’ exhaustion. “If they have a specific illness, this exhaustion might push an official to their death,” he said.

Is there a suspicion that the deaths of KPPS officials is a systematic effort to eliminate traces of fraud? “I myself would not go that far, and I have no proof for that claim. If there is strong evidence from legal authorities there would be no problems, but so far, I have not heard any reports from any legal agencies or independent institutions about it,” Wijayanto said.

Natalius Pigai, former National Commission on Human Right (Komisi Nasional Hak Asasi Manusia – “Komnas HAM”) Commissioner, stated that the death of the hundreds of KPPS officials mark this Elections as the worst in all the world’s history. “If democracy is fair and honest, these deaths would not have occurred. In this case, the cause must be proven. KPPS officials have also died in previous elections, but how come nobody takes anticipative action so that it does not happen again? Like for example, providing mobile clinics, quick health service, and medical insurance for the victims and their families; the health of KPPS officials should be checked before they work, etc. Electoral organizers should have made KPU Regulations to anticipate health issues, because death of KPPS officials has occurred in the previous elections. In a legal context, this is called culpa or negligence that caused death or injury to others. Electoral organizers, especially the 7 top officials of Central KPU, might be tried for the crime, which is punishable with up to 5 years’ imprisonment. The odd thing is, most of the dead KPPS officials are from TPS where Prabowo-Sandi are winning. This high number of dead officials is a grave violation of human rights. They died implementing democracy, one of the worst deaths in the world. The President should resign to express his sense of responsibility over these deaths. It is the president’s responsibility as head of State and head of Government,” he said.

Worst Elections Ever

Adhie thinks that this Elections is the worst tragedy throughout Indonesia’s long history. It seems that all sorts of issues occur in this Elections. For example, there are missing voters from the Final Voters’ List (Daftar Pemilih Tetap – “DPT”), the determination of ballot boxes, many voting forms are pre-marked, and erroneous summarizing, not to mention TPS officials who directed voters to vote for a specific Presidential Candidate Pairs. Cases like this occurred in 4,589 TPS. Adhie even went so far as to call this situation “an overdose of frauds”. This Elections has the most comprehen­sive range of frauds: data manipulation, voting forms pre-marked KPPS officials, money politics, and intimidation. This is an amazing setback, almost as if we just held elections for the first time.

Our first Elections in 1955 was the most orderly one, while it was our first experience and the majority of Indonesians were barely educated. Nowadays, educational level has become higher, IT facilities have become better, electoral expenses have become higher, but everything has become so much more chaotic. The 2019 Elections is the highest-costing elections at IDR 25 billion, but it has generated nothing but cardboard boxes, deaths of KPPS officials, and scandals. In other words, this Elections is our worst ever and we must never let it be repeated throughout our history. The one most responsible for this mess  is the Government and KPU, because they are the ones organizing the Elections together. There are mechanisms for accountability, maybe involving the House of Representatives (Dewan Perwakilan Rakyat – “DPR”).

The 2019 Presidential Election is the fourth Presidential Elections where we elect our president directly after Reformation. Wijayanto notes that elections nowadays, i.e. since Reformation, are mostly related to the worsening of money politics. In our current Elections, even though the Presidential Election and Legislative Election were held simultaneously, the people are more focused on Presidential Election, which in turn is focused on garnering votes. “Most of our media highlight the competition between the two candidates, instead of politicians’ programs for the people,” he said.

Frauds and procedural flaws, such as KPPS officials directing voters, KPPS discovering unused vote forms, breaking in of ballot boxes, and the closing of TPS before 13.00 (which was the end time for registering to vote for the day), must be investigated properly. “I wonder if there is deliberate foul play here,” Wijayanto said. “The 2019 Elections is one with the most things to note during the Reform Era. It was the worst in terms of massive money politics, sharp competition between the two teams, complication of democratic process, the high number of deaths, and the high level of cynicism against the electoral process.”

Natalius Pigai stated that the international world must know that Indonesia’s latest election was worse than in Venezuela. The Venezuelan elections was held in order to maintain the socialist ideology; therefore, it is a non-democratic process as because socialism does not know democracy. In contrast, the Presidential Candidate in Indonesia, both Jokowi and Prabowo, are from political parties that espouse the same ideologies of nationalism and religiosity in line with democracy. Yet in practice, it is Indonesia, with its ideological support, political party support, and the support from other instruments of democracy, that only appears to implement democracy even though it really doesn’t. its elections, are filled with fraud. Freedom, such as the freedom of the press, only seem to exist; top officials act as if they were trustworthy, while they abuse their power.

Indonesia, despite its prominence in a democratic context in Asia, has half-returned to the condition shared with African countries, which only have false democracy. Indonesia’s democratic ranking has lowered since 2017. The international world cannot remain silent over electoral crimes in Indonesia because there are some aspects that we need to correct. The first one is related to the right to vote. The validity of 17.5 million DPT remains unresolved until now, there are nearly 25 million ghost voters, and 6 voters who are listed in the DPT but were not invited. Furthermore, in some regions, voting forms have been marked prior to elections. There are cases of foreign citizens suspected of having local e-ID cards and are given voting rights. There are also erroneous inputs.  Right to vote problems are serious: they are being eroded systematically and deliberately.

The second aspect is the right to participate in government and politics, a right inherent in the Presidential Candidates. From the start, the Incumbent has already prepared a strategy to limit candidacy to two candidates, with Elections Law limiting presidential threshold at 20%. In this way, only two candidates can satisfy the requirements and compete, while the right to participate in government and politics is available for all citizens.

Indonesia’s territory is triple that of most European countries’ and it should be ruled by relatively younger president and vice president with the physical and mental stamina required to administer it. However, Jokowi made use of elderly clergies with fragile health for his Vice-Presidential candidacy simply in order to improve electability and drive religious politics. On the contrary, Presidential Candidate Prabowo did not utilize religious politics, but it is the ulema who were under pressure that came to him for protection. Therefore, Prabowo became the terminal for complaints for Muslims who seek justice.

Other samples of violation of rights of participation in government and politics include the limitation of campaign permits of Presidential Candidate 02 in public space, limitation of the Indonesia Lawyers’ Club (ILC) TV show, limitation of international mainstream media that publishes or broadcasts news of Presidential Candidate 02.

The third aspect is free and fair elections. From the start, electoral organizers, whether KPU or Bawaslu, were never fair nor honest in organizing the Elections. Despite the highlighting of various frauds by international mass media, such as the death of over 500 KPPS officials due to excessive pressure, exhaustion etc.; time limitation and questions asked during the Candidates’ Debate; and lack of electoral organizers’ cooperation in resolving DPT-related issues. The fact that thousands of input errors occurring means that it is deliberately and consciously meant for fraud. Electoral frauds are structured, systematic and massive. We suspect dirty dealing between electoral organizers and certain candidates. Furthermore, Indonesia is prone to “loose” transactions and its electoral organizers are vulnerable to money politics. Bawaslu still has not acted as a fair and honest umpire even now.

Fourth is about money politics, which trades on the people’s vote and sovereignty. Such electoral transactions violate the principle of honest and fair elections. The most frequently used forms of money politics are cash distribution, goods distribution, outright vote-buying, and indirect vote-buying through populist policies, such as social aids and the issuance of various cards through Jokowi government. This violates Article 33 of the Constitution of 1945. Such populist policies are generally found only in socialist countries such as Venezuela, but 90% of Indonesia’s Pancasila democracy policies in the Jokowi era are strangely very socialistic.

The fifth is abuse of power. This is first shown when the president refused to take a temporary leave according to Election Law. Furthermore, the President used sociable aid distributions, such as basic necessity aids and monetary aids, via State facilities despite his position as a Presidential Candidate. Furthermore, he used State institutions such as the Army, the Police, the State’s intelligence, and Regional Heads. Law enforcement officers were used to pressure lower-ranked officials.

The People Want Change

Adhie stated that input errors into the Situng as reported by BPN Prabowo-Sandi are structured fraud. These findings are part of the fraud’s structure. There is nothing but abuse of power can disqualify the other candidate.

With so many frauds coming in from various directions, this Election can only be acceptable with a disqualification of one of the candidates, so that the winner is the one hoped for by the people. If we refer to what happens in other countries, we might want to look at the Philippines in 1986. At the time, the Philippine Election Commission declared Ferdinand Marcos to have won the election, while the people’s count favored Cory Aquino. Therefore, the people simply asked Marcos to step back. There were no electoral disputes at the time in the Philippines, and Cory Aquino was directly sworn in as the President. “With our current situation, there are so many electoral disputes that it would be difficult for us to submit which one to protest against, and this is not something that the Constitution Court can deal with by its own. The people would dispute with KPU if it declares the winner of the Presidential Election that they don’t approve of,” he said.

The biggest lesson from this Election is that that elections collect the people’s vote. The adage that “the people’s voice is God’s voice” must be protected and the people’s desire must be manifested through the elections results. Elections are a reflection of the people’s desires that are measured once every 5 years using the electoral democracy mechanism. The results must reflect what the people want. If the people do not get what they want, they would create a dispute, and that is what is happening now.

What needs to be noted is that the people want change and they have already connected the idea of change with Presidential Candidate Number 02. “When the resulting winner is not 02, there will be a big problem, because the people want change,” he said. As the KPU produces something different from what the people expect, there will be major electoral scandals that make people get even more suspicious of what happens with our elections we. There will be suspicion that this Election was designed to obstruct the flow of change for the Indonesian people. However, that won’t work: if the changes the people want is obstructed in one way, they will get it another way.

Natalius Pigai reminded us that four out of the seven presidents in Indonesia was forced to end their rule midway, and the power succession went on normally: Soekarno, Soeharto, Habibie, and Gus Dur. The international world must understand that if Indonesian people started to mention “people power”, it means that there is something wrong with the elections and fraud clearly occurs. Just with international support, we can get Jokowi to be disqualified. “We are pushing the international world to disqualify Jokowi because he damages democracy. We want to repair democracy in Indonesia and make Indonesia the number one democratic prominence in Southeast Asia,” he said.

Notes for the Elections

KPU implements legal products created by DPR. Wijayanto stated that from a procedural perspective, KPU should be the one responsible for electoral violations. However, from a judicial perspective, for example, when discussing whether elections should be proportionally open or closed, that is up to DPR. “I think that this Elections is sufficient to make us understand that there is something that we must seriously do, i.e. electoral reforms using future legal products, for example using e-voting, changing the open proportional system with the closed proportional system. In the proportional open system, members from the same political party would compete with each other. This is a reason why money politics is extremely strong. Even candidates from the same party would hurt each other and both would equally implement money politics using their own individual networks and campaign team. The costs would rise much higher, but the participation of the political party towards their victory would be reduced. The open proportional system is a weakness for political party participation. Furthermore, it complicates vote counting and increases political costs, because we must calculate the number of votes obtained by each candidate from each political party,” he said.

The most important lesson from this Election is that we need to simplify our electoral system, reduce our political costs, and strengthen the participation of our political parties. Electoral reforms are part of the agenda that we must implement when this election is over.

Another thing to note is that both our political elites and our people lack political maturity. We only managed to implement democratic procedures, but we have not implemented a cultural democracy wherein conflicting individuals agree that there are some rules of political ethics that must be followed. The people must not become mere fanatical followers of any candidate, but must also be critical of their own candidate. Because in the end, elections are not about who wins or loses, but about whether the problems actually faced by the people are being publicly addressed and their solutions sought by the competing candidates. (Dessy Aipipidely, Ekawati)