Democracy under siege: Now it’s up to the people

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Independent Observer

IO, Jakarta – Every year, the 1st of May is celebrated as Labor Day. The 2019 Public May Day Celebration in Jakarta was attended by 50,000 workers from Jakarta, Bogor, Depok, and Bekasi (Jabodetabek) area, Purwakarta, Serang, and Cilegon. Furthermore, hundreds of thousands of workers also held May Day rallies in industrial areas throughout Indonesia: Bandung, Semarang, Jepara, Yogyakarta, Gresik, Surabaya, Bogor, Tangerang, Cianjur, Sukabumi, Bekasi, Aceh, Medan, Makassar, Palu, Banjarmasin, Samarinda, Maluku, Lombok, and Papua.

Honest and Peaceful Democracy

In the Capital City, The Confederation of Indonesian Trade Unions (Konfederasi Serikat Pekerja Seluruh Indonesia – “KSPI”) held a Labor Day celebration in the Senayan Indoor Tennis Court. KSPI President Said Iqbal stated that the main issue that they discussed were workers’ welfare and honest and peaceful democracy. “Why are we voicing out honest and peaceful democracy on May Day? Because KSPI as a representative of workers has the interest in insuring that democracy is honest. The Presidential Elections and Legislative Elections must remain honest until KPU announces the final results on 22nd of May. There must be no fraud, there mustn’t be any data manipulation, there must not be anything that will degrade the choice of any single Presidential Candidate Pair or Legislative Candidate,” Said stated.

In his oration, Said encouraged workers that they should not be afraid to fight for what they feel is right. “We want honest democracy. We do not grudge anyone their victory, but do not cheat, it must not be fraudulent. Go ahead and win, but do not manipulate the people’s voice. Honest policies will never emerge if we elect fraudulent leaders. If fraudulent leaders get elected, their policies will be fraudulent and will not favor the people,” he stated.

In this year’s May Day celebration, KSPI specifically invited Presidential Candidate Number 02 Prabowo Subianto. Before the thousands of workers present, Said Iqbal reiterates that KSPI is distributed across 27 provinces. “In workers’ areas, laborers’ areas, Prabowo has the advantage in numbers of votes earned,” he said proudly.

During the event, the organizers played several videos revealing the fraudulent acts that occurred during the 2019 Elections on a large screen installed on a stage. Among the videos they played include the burning of ballot boxes, somebody running away carrying C1 Forms, official cars carrying away C1 Forms, and a citizen in Makassar recording himself watching over the count of C1 Forms. “Bapak Prabowo, the other day you have already announced that you have won the Presidential election. Do not admit Jokowi’s claim to victory – we are the witness, you have totally won,” he said. Other videos shown some news items relating to Elections Commission’s clarification and other news of fraud. The workers cheered again when they saw KPU Chairman Arief Budiman shown on the screen.

In alignment with the spirit of the 2019 May Day of honest and peaceful democracy, Prabowo Subianto addressed the issue of the people’s voice and the essence of democracy as power in the hand of the people, before hundreds of thousands of workers. According to Prabowo, workers and farmers are the backbone of our national economy. “Your energy, your strength, is to maintain the livelihood of your families every day. Therefore, you deserve to be called the backbone of Indonesia,” he said.

There is no problem with elites being rich, as long as they earn their wealth from their hard work. However, if they become rich from stealing, cheating, and manipulating the people, they have betrayed the nation. Prabowo also highlighted the fact that the people are always patient, but they will eventually retaliate if they are constantly manipulated. “The people are considered to be foolish and poor – so foolish and poor that you can influence them with money. Village headmen are also much bullied and threatened. It’s no wonder that for the first time in our Republic’s history, more than 300 election officials on duty have died,” he said.

Democracy has rules to the game

Prabowo also expressed criticism against the media. He thinks that the media has played a role in damaging Indonesia’s democracy. “You media people, I salute you for still having the guts to come here. History will write, you media, that you have damaged democracy in Indonesia. I am telling the truth, aren’t I? Yes? Yes, that’s right. Naturally I must call things out the way I see it. What’s not right, is not right. Don’t you turn it around,” Prabowo said.

He added how all Indonesian citizens have recorded the actions of the media, as well as the electoral frauds that occur in the field. Prabowo explained that the people are not sheep that can be controlled, a living creature that can only give in to their fate. “You of the media, be careful! We record your actions one by one. We are not sheep that you can manipulate. You be careful, be careful! The people’s voice is God’s voice,” he said.

According to Prabowo, democracy has rules of the game that obliges everyone to comply with them. He compared democracy with soccer, wherein the opposing teams, the referee, and the assistant referees must all be honest. “But everywhere we go, we get reports of fraud. What we feel most astonished and sad about is that there are people in Indonesia who feel themselves to be untouchables, strong and powerful,” he said.

He further mentioned a case that insulted the people’s heart and common sense. Prabowo quoted the famous words of Abraham Lincoln, former president of the US, “You can fool all the people some of the time and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.” Prabowo elaborated that there will be a time when the people will get sick of lies and fraud. The National Committee to Elect Prabowo-Sandi (Badan Pemenangan Nasional – “BPN Prabowo-Sandi”) stated that it has discovered massive frauds relating to the vote count in the Presidential Elections that damages Presidential Candidate Pair 02. “There is the time, there is the moment, when the people understand, when the people become aware, and the people say “Enough is Enough with the lies and frauds already!

“Thieves are now in power; it is enough that the Indonesian people are sacrificed, it is enough that the people’s wealth is drained, enough abuse of the people, enough, enough!” he said.

Prabowo stated that our citizens, our people have chosen democracy as their way of governing themselves. It has been proven throughout the entire history of mankind that only democracy can bring forth progress, prosperity, and welfare in a peaceful situation to the people. “Democracy literally means “the power of the people”,” he said.

The crowds of workers listened to Prabowo’s speech with great interest. They frequently peppered his speech with shouts of “Long live Prabowo!” and “President Prabowo!” They mostly responded to his three pantuns or limericks: the first one was about his victory along with that of his Vice-Presidential Candidate Sandiaga Uno in the 2019 Presidential Elections: “Di sini gunung in sana gunung, in tengah-tengah Pulau Bali. Saudara-saudara, jangan pernah bingung, yang pasti menang Prabowo-Sandi (“Mountains here and mountains there, with Bali Island in the Center; don’t you fret, don’t you worry, Prabowo-Sandi is certain of victory”).” After this pantun, Prabowo danced like he did in the Presidential Elections Debate. Later, he made a second pantun about victory going to the defender of the truth: “Satu dua cempaka biru, tiga empat in jambangan. Percayalah yang bela kebenaran, dia yang akan dapat kemenangan (“One cempaka blossom and two, put three and four in the vase; trust that for the one defending the truth, victory is the case”).” Finally, in his third pantun, he japed about those who do fraud: “Rawe-rawe rantas, malang-malang putung; mereka yang curang, akhlaknya seperti lutung (“Cut down all weeds and turn them into hay, all frauds have the morals of monkeys”).” 

Concern for Workers’ Welfare

Ujang Komarudin, Political Observer from Al Azhar University, said that we must respect and appreciate the workers who work hard to improve their stature, honor, and dignity in the context of a developing economy and welfare. Naturally, we also demand that the Government provide for workers’ welfare, because they are the sons and daughters of Indonesia and we are responsible for improving their lot, day by day. “Do not forget the workers, do not negate workers. This is what will hurt the life of our common workers,” he said.

Presidential Candidate 02 Prabowo Subianto attended the May Day event to show his rapport to workers. It is a good thing for leaders to be close with workers, because no matter what great expectations workers have of their political elites, no leader will exist without his followers. The workers want to entrust their leaders with their welfare, with the change in their fates that remain the same year after year. Development in Indonesia is still unable to provide welfare for them all. Invitation to Prabowo to the event is a positive statement of the workers’ trust in him of their fates. Prabowo must carry out their trust if he is proven to win Presidential Elections.

Common workers are the backbone of the national economy, because there are so many of them and they are the ones who run all parts of any economic activity. For example, no matter how small or large a factory is, it cannot produce anything without workers. There would be no clothing, no tools, no vehicles, etc. without workers. They play such a significant role, and it is natural that Presidential Candidate 02 said that workers are the backbone of the national economy.

These days, the income gap between the rich and the poor is widening. Prabowo reminds the rich and the political elites not to forget the poor, not to forget the workers, because gaps cause jealousy and resentment. All the wealth in Indonesia is meant for the welfare of all Indonesian citizen, including and especially the workers, as they are the most numerous of all our citizens. Wealth is not just for the elite. This is what is stated in our Constitution: the equality of development for the welfare of all Indonesian people.

The people will naturally retaliate if they are undermined and ignored, because the economy is all about survival. This is the same as labor movements all over the world: when their welfare is not addressed, the people will naturally fight. This does not happen just in Indonesia.

Meanwhile, Mirah Sumirat, President of the Indonesia Labor Union Association (Asosiasi Serikat Pekerja Indonesia – “ASPEK”) explained that it is in celebration of May Day during Jokowi’s Government that we are reminded how the workers’ fates worsens year after year. “In terms of wages, we are very much impoverished with the issuance of Government Regulation No. 78 of 2015 concerning Wages, which contravenes the provisions of the Constitution of 1945, Article 27 Paragraph 2, which states that “Each citizen shall be entitled to an occupation and an existence proper for a human being.” It also violates the provisions of Law No. 13 of 2003 Article concerning Wages, wherein the setting of minimum wages must be discussed by a Salary Council comprising of three elements: Entrepreneurs, Workers, and the Government. Consequently, we have become poorer and our buying power has decreased due to low salary,” she stated.

When purchasing power continues to weaken, many companies will be forced to shut down. Later, outsourcing practices pop up, followed by the widespread of the apprenticeship system. During Jokowi’s Government, “apprenticeship” is when a person is required to work like a permanent employee but only for a basic salary. In the past, apprenticeship only took 3-6 months, but it is now 1-2 years long and can be extended. “We request that this system be abolished,” she said.

Another important issue is related to foreign workers. The Government has issued regulations that eliminate the obligation for foreign workers to be able to speak Indonesian, as well as eliminate regulations relating to the 1:10 ratio (i.e. the hiring of 1 foreign worker must be accompanied with the hiring of 10 Indonesian workers for the purpose of knowledge transfer). Government Regulation No. 20 of 2018 concerning Foreign Workers make it very easy for foreign workers to work here. Work duration should be 6 months only, but it is now extended to 2 years and can be freely extendable. Facts in the field also show that many foreign unskilled workers are allowed entry to Indonesia.

Mass layoffs have been occurring in the Jokowi Era since 2015. “Our data records a total of 50,000 people have been laid off until 2017. There have been 30,000 layoffs in banking, 20,000 in toll road works in 2017 because of automation. In telecommunications and retail, thousands of people have been laid off. They then become online drivers. The high level of labor absorption to online driving is not because of the Government’s work, but the hard work of the people themselves. If the alternative position as an online driver is unavailable, I cannot imagine what other social issues may occur,” she said.

80% of Indonesia’s economy runs on the sweat of Indonesian workers. All production results are generated by the hard work of Indonesian workers. Prabowo’s statement that workers are the backbone of the national economy is nothing but the truth. “If all workers decide to go on strike together, I am sure that our economy will be totally paralyzed,” Mirah said.

She further believes that Prabowo-Sandi is the solution to all the workers’ problems. “I believe that the solution for our security and welfare rests in Presidential Candidate Pair 02 Prabowo-Sandi. This not because I am a supporter of 02, but I feel that during Jokowi’s Government, workers become poorer and do not get anything; our lives have become worse. I earn an average raise of 8% every year while it used to be 20% before. Many of our worker members are laid off and foreign workers enter Indonesia,” she said. Mirah further quoted Prabowo’s saying that the elites may become rich, but they must not fool the people or the workers. He noted that many elites become rich from corruption, or in other words, from stealing the people’s money. “If elites become rich because they work hard without exploiting workers, Pak Prabowo will naturally respect them,” she said.

Siti Zuhro, Indonesian Institute of Sciences (Lembaga Ilmu Pengetahuan Indonesia – “LIPI”) Political Observer, said that May Day is a moment the workers are able to express their aspiration to the Government and to their employers. Taking advantage of the May Day momentum, they seek to have their demands heard and accommodated, if not granted. The invitation to Presidential Candidate 02 shows that workers tend to support Prabowo’s policies over Jokowi. They found Prabowo’s worker policies are more supportive of them than the policies of Jokowi’s Government.

Exposing the Fraud

Ujang stated that in relation to the 2019 electoral frauds, any fraud anywhere in the Republic must be exposed clearly and thoroughly. It is not possible for democracy to be implemented with allowance of anyone’s fraudulent action. All structured, systematic, and massive fraud must be exposed and duly punished. Anyone proving to have committed it must be punished severely, because democracy must be implemented honestly and transparently. Without honesty, democracy is nothing but a travesty. “I will rather expose these frauds to the public and before the law, in order to serve as lessons in implementing democracy. In other words, we want to prevent fraud by anyone, whether in this Elections or in the upcoming Elections. If Prabowo’s team has strong evidence of fraud, they must expose it to allow the people to discover legal channels and procedures in Indonesia,” he said.

If Elections are fraudulent, the elected leader will be fraudulent too, and the policies will end up not supporting the people. Do not become an unfair leader. Do not ever become fraudulent leaders. The trust given to leaders in the Republic must really be based on the people’s mandate. Campaign promises must be realized. There are three traits of a true leader: first, a leader always speaks the truth. Like Soekarno said, words and deeds must be the same. Second, a leader always keeps his promises. Third, leaders do not betray trust. If we cannot see these three elements in a leader, then he is a hypocrite. Right now there are many hypocritical elites, whose words and deeds do not match the damage of the country. Too much hypocrisy in our country will bring our destruction.

Mirah noted that Presidential Candidate Prabowo came in response to an invitation for May Day. “We held a tasyakuran (thanksgiving celebration) and expressed our congratulation to Prabowo-Sandi for being the President and Vice President for the 2019-2024 period. We have also made a political contract containing The People’s Ten Demands (Sepuluh Tuntutan Rakyat – “Sepultura”) between Prabowo Subianto and The Confederation of Indonesian Trade Unions (KSPI) signed on Tuesday (1/5/2018). We also have our own vote count system, and Presidential Candidate Pair 02 has won on the ground. We are reminding him of the political contract that he has signed. We are also telling all Indonesian people to not trust the results of survey agency quick counts, and we must wait for the results of the real count from the Elections Commission. However, if there is still fraud in the results, I believe that the people will fight it,” she said.

Mirah notes that she has witnessed many frauds taking place in the 2019 Elections. “I experienced it myself: I am a House of Representative (Calon Dewan Perwakilan Rakyat Republik Indonesia – “DPR RI”) Legislative Candidate from the Depok Electoral Region. There were 38 votes for myself and only two for the incumbent at the TPS, but when we checked in the District, I was recorded of having won only 3 votes and the remaining was for the incumbent. I lost 35 votes. This means fraud,” she said.

Siti sees that the Indonesian people are always cool and patient. However, when they are pushed beyond reason, the people will fight back. The Indonesian people are basically a peace-loving, harmonious, and patient people. However, they can turn into resisting and expressive people when their sense of justice is outraged. They will demand honesty to be upheld in order to maintain this sense of justice.

Prabowo sees that the people will not give up against injustice and do not want to be lied to. What is currently happening in Indonesia is due to the accumulation of deviant practices. “Public trust is degraded: the people find it hard to trust because of the intensity of the frauds that they have witnessed by themselves. Therefore, the people demand a stop of existing frauds and immediate concrete solutions for this issue,” Siti said.

“The people’s voice is God’s voice, but those in power seek to control it. Massive frauds have occurred in today’ Elections,” Siti Zuhro said. The people’s voice must be respected, and nothing may be deviated. The people have the right to complain if their votes are being manipulated. In the democratic system, the people’s rights are constitutionally protected. Therefore, it is only natural that the people demand sufficient solutions for fraud, especially when the fraud occurs to a widespread extent. There is no other way but to make sure that Election results are trusted and accepted by everyone. Without it, an uproar will occur, as the people will still feel cheated and they cannot accept such injustice.

Democracy must be supported by strong law enforcement practices. Elections must therefore be founded on law enforcement. Without this, there will be no legal certainty and the people will not feel themselves to be bound by laws. If frauds “occur everywhere”, it means that our legal foundation, our legal bondage, our law enforcement is very weak. If Elections are not based on strong law enforcement will cause injustice issues. “The principle of honest and fair Elections is non-negotiable. It is an absolute in the electoral processes. If this first principle is not complied with, Elections become distorted and stained,” Siti said.

Media Partisanship

Whether we like it or not, all media have their own partisanships toward any specific person or rule, even though they may try to remain neutral. Unfortunately, according to Ujang, the media nowadays are mostly partisan and biased toward a certain candidate. The media should have been the vehicle for transformation to wisdom and a means of educating the people. It must also stand as a pillar of democracy that will take the people on the path to wisdom. However, when the media becomes partisan, problems will arise. Therefore, let us establish strong and healthy media that publish and broadcast balanced, neutral, and objective news, so that the people get the correct information. In this way, the media will participate in the development of the Nation.

Prabowo also criticizes the media for having damaged democracy. The media earns from selling advertisements. In order to survive, the media cannot be honest anymore but publish news according to the order. “That’s when the media is no longer independent, when they aggressively and massively influence and form public opinion,” Mirah said.

According to Siti Zuhro, media, as an important pillar of democracy, must have the idealism, objectivity, and clarity to provide correct and accurate information to the public. It is improper for the media to be partisan and only support its owner, to close its eyes against actual social realities. Without the important participation of the media in developing democracy, the process of uniting the people will be delayed.

Democracy Procedures

Ujang stated that democracy in Indonesia is still run in a procedural context. For example, Elections are held, but there is uproar and chaos. The substance of democracy, such as minimal fraud, lack of attacks or slander against each other, voters exercising their voting rights according to reason and common sense: this is still not yet felt. There must be a good mix of procedural democracy and substantial democracy in order for Elections to be better.

Democracy contains indicators that must be harmonious with its basic principles. The people are still easily influenced due to overall low educational level, while if we want to have an advanced and smoothly running democracy, we must make sure that the people’s educational level is high. Another concern is the mostly low economic level of the people, while democracy requires that the people receive sufficiently per capita income. When the people are still impoverished, money politics will still be practiced, things like “distribution of free daily necessities” etc. are still practiced. This is why the people are still influenced by political elites.

Honest democracy is easy to implement. The main requirement is that the leader must be honest in his word and deeds. “If a leader lies or ignores his promises, this will be difficult to implement,” Mirah said.

The essence of democracy is “from the people, by the people, and for the people”. Therefore, Siti Zuhro believes that national, provincial, regency, and municipal leaders must be directly elected by the people. Leaders are accountable to the people because the highest level of sovereignty is in the hands of the people. Therefore, it is unreasonable if we consider the people to be fools, or to under­estimate them. Democracy provides for the building of the citizens’ dignity, nota bene the dignity of the nation.

The Need for Professional Elections Organizers

The State pays election organizers to work professionally and properly. They must never be partisan for or against anyone; they work for the interest of the State and Nation. According to Ujang, there is no reason to perform political deals with any specific party. Elections organizers are referees who are delegated the authority by the Law to hold Elections properly and correctly, without siding with or against anyone.

According to Mirah, Elections organizers must respond to Prabowo’s accusations of fraud in elections with an immediate apology to the people, admission of fraud, and resolution of fraud reports.

Siti Zuhro believes that dishonest and unfair Elections will affect the quality of Election results. They will have a negative correlation against the formation of effective Government supporting the people. Therefore, all stakeholders of the Elections, i.e. KPU, Bawaslu, electoral candidates, and law enforcement must remain professional and not partisan. Therefore, if a Presidential Candidate or the people state that Elections are fraudulent, the stakeholders must respond quickly and provide concrete solutions. This is necessary to prevent electoral dissatisfaction from degenerating into electoral dispute or conflicts. (Dessy Aipipidely, Ekawati)