Jokowi clinging onto power: But at what cost to our democracy?

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Independent Observer

IO, Jakarta – Elections 2019 are over. Yet our Elections, as an important pillar of democracy, were filled with too much competitiveness for power. Unfortunately, some people would do whatever it takes in order to hang onto power. The elections as a democratic process loses its substance and meaning. Problems and issues relating to the Elections crop up every day. The most obvious of these is the death of hundreds of Election Monitoring Groups (Kelompok Pengawas Pemungutan Suara – “KPPS”) officials, Elections Monitoring Committee (Panitia Pengawas Pemilihan Umum – “Panwas Pemilu”) members, and even police officers. Not only that, massive fraud occurring in the regions, to the shame of our democracy. There is still the involvement of law enforcement officers, who are ordered to go against the people, whom they should be protecting instead. This is a  portrait of our situation an irony of our democratic country.

Obvious Fraud

Siti Zuhro, political observer from the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (Lembaga Ilmu Pengetahuan Indonesia – “LIPI”) said that frauds in Elections 2019 are clear and not covered at all. Such deviations are so obvious that we no longer need to seek proof. In a democratic country, the highest power is held in the hands of the people. Yet the portrait of the people’s sovereignty in Indonesia is an ironic one: the people’s participation in the Government is high, but the results are not. Direct Presidential Election and Legislative Election should have been performed from, by, and for the people, but sovereignty is not fully in the hands of the people.

The Legislative Election and Presidential Election were merely a cover to make it seem as if the people have full sovereignty, while they really do not. This is because their participation in the Elections was mobilized, and their votes were diverted. Rampant vote-buying has caused the near perfect sellout of the people’s sovereignty. Our Elections have not built up our people’s integrity and dignity, but in fact erode the cultural values that we have respected all this time.

Meanwhile, Idil Akbar, a political observer from Padjajaran University, Bandung, explains that so far claims of fraud have only been received from the National Committee to Elect Prabowo-Sandi (Badan Pemenangan Nasional Prabowo Subianto-Sandiaga Uno – “BPN Prabowo-Sandi”). According to applicable laws, suspicion of fraud must be reported to the Elections Monitoring Agency (Badan Pengawas Pemilihan Umum – “Bawaslu”). In relation to legal prosecution, only the Constitutional Court can decide whether fraud has occurred or not.

Margarito Kamis, State Administration law expert, considers that electoral fraud, specifically the Presidential Election, cannot be understood with common reasoning. The most obvious of Presidential Election frauds is Bawaslu’s finding that some members of KPPS intimidated voters, pressuring them to vote for a specific candidate.

“Fraud” is a way to cheat the people. This is bad, but as democracy always contains loopholes for hiding evil and/or enabling people to accept evil, while saying that “it will be fixed later” or “that is part of the dynamics of democracy”. Pragmatical people know this, and therefore they do not see fraud as something “bad”. Yet truthfully, the scope and extent of the frauds that occur nowadays are entirely unexpected. Fraud is nowadays seen as something highly coordinated. Just see how KPU only grants the right to perform QC to survey agencies that are members of one survey organization. Even Bawaslu said that many voters have been channeled. This is a sign that the fraud is the result of massive coordination.

Ray Rangkuti, Executive Director of Lingkar Madani Indonesia, considers that the fraud that occurred in the in 2019 Presidential Election frequently takes place in elections in Indonesia. The most specifically obvious violation, according to him, is related to law enforcement officers (in this case the police), and to Civil Servants (Pegawai Negeri Sipil – “PNS”), because PNS also have their own political choices. Elections are held as a process of implementing the principle of “power in the hands of the people”. The principle remains applicable. However, we need to correct the neutrality of PNS and police officers.

Ray Rangkuti further stated that the most important improvement in Elections should be the Election Commission’s Voting Count Information System (Sistem Informasi Perhitungan Suara Komisi Pemilihan Umum – “Situng KPU”). However, the fact that the System uses the C1 (certificate of voting results) Form scans means that there is a means of comparing inputted data with C1 Forms. It would be easy to correct the inputted data by checking it against scans of actual C1 Forms. We do not need to take in the results of the inputted count on faith, because we can make direct comparison with C1 Form data.

Freedom of Speech is Restricted

According to Siti, it is simply ironic that in an era of democracy, the freedom to speak is restricted. Democracy should provide an opportunity for the common people to express themselves and to unite, and these rights are protected by the constitution. The restrictions made by the Government is a violation of human rights. In democracy, communication is built in two directions, not one way, top-down and subordinating.

We need to look at the issue of freedom of speech comprehensively, not partially. Idil Akbar considers freedom of speech to be an essential freedom that is the right of all citizens and protected by the Constitution of 1945. The freedom is a responsible freedom, including in the expression of opinion. Freedom of opinion might easily lead to slanders, hoaxes, hate speech, provocation, and distribution of outright lies. This should be anticipated. All citizens should be able to discipline themselves not to express their opinions outside of the limits of democracy, but it still happens. “If there is something that touches our sense of justice, we must still express it. Our critiques must remain focused and not be related to slanders, hoaxes, etc.,” he said.

In response to Coordinating Minister of Politics, Law, and Security Wiranto’s statement relating to new legal regulations for people who criticize Government policies, Idil Akbar believes that Wiranto should be able to explain comprehensively what is meant by “conspiracy”. “Do we consider it to be something that goes as far as overturning the Government? I myself see that this is still within the limits of normal post-Election dynamics, but if it has gone too far – if there are efforts to create a political framework that leads to the overturning the valid Government or to delegitimate Elections, it is right that we must take firm action,” he said.

According to the Constitution of 1945, freedom of speech is a constitutional freedom. “This freedom is a right. This right causes the Government to become credible and transparent in running itself. It is impossible not to limit freedom, but the limitation must be supported by objective reasoning and facts that we can verify in general and can be understood by everyone, then can we determine the criteria for limitation. Silencing criticism against the President as a reason to limit freedom of speech cannot be seen as politically wise, and be given political weight, as a reason for limiting freedom of speech,” Margarito said.

The law is the same in character, whether in a democratic Government or an authoritarian one. Both systems use the law to control power. Even in democratic regimes, the law is used to protect power. “Nowadays, it is impossible not to say that the law is used to attack political opponents in our current Presidential Election,” Margarito said.

Democracy requires people who have the ability to remain unoffended when criticized, who would not allow power to be used to achieve ends that are against the Constitution. Comparing with America, this is how democracy is. In this context, democracy is similar to anarchism. We can even say that it is a refined anarchism. We could have fully implemented democracy in this meaning, but we do not. “Hundreds of electoral officials have died, but they are not seen to be worth more than buffaloes. What kind of democracy is this?” Margarito asked. Freedom of speech is limited indirectly, as the arrest of people suspected of conspiracy would discourage the people to openly criticize the Government, and this affects freedom of opinion.

Wiranto stated that people who criticize Government policies will be punished using new rules. “We strongly regret this statement, because it did not show improvement in the quality of democracy, and it would not resolve the issue. I ask that the men to be elected into our national legislative agencies to refuse this, because history will keep a constant record and question their stance. This ruling prevents the people from speaking freely. We already have our own law enforcement officers, and there are regulations concerning hoaxes or provocation. Wiranto’s statement does not contribute to the improvement of the currently grim situation. It adds new fears,” Ray Rangkuti said.

Law Enforcement Officers vs. The People

Siti stated that law enforcement officers are currently forced to go against the people, while the people are only seeking justice. This goes against the fact that the police’s primary function and duty is to maintain stability and security, and serve the people. “The police are a mainstay for the enforcement of justice among the people,” she said.

“However, our social media frequently distribute partial information, which frames the police as if they were a product of power. The public sees this as a type of partisanship. Our netizens should be able to discipline themselves and take a comprehensive look at existing information or content, confirm this information in order to be able to truly capture the essence of what the police actually do,” Idil Akbar said.

Ray Rangkuti admits that law enforcement officers have been rather obvious in providing space for the incumbent while slightly obstructing the opposition. For example, they prosecute suspected supporters of the opposition with hard rules such as conspiracy, and there are officers who admitted that they have been ordered to take voters’ data. This indicates the partisanship of law enforcement officers to one of the candidates. However, after many protests, they perhaps realize that the public is aware of their stance. Before the 2019 Presidential Election, they held themselves back and tried not to be involved too deeply in the execution of the Elections. “But later I found rather obvious impressions of partisanship, specifically when taking voters’ data. Even though it was done for security reason, it really should not have been allowed, as such official data-taking generates psychological pressure on voters,” he said.

Procedural Democracy

In view of Indonesia’s current condition, Siti worries that democracy in Indonesia might become entrapped in “prolonged procedural democracy”. The commitment of political elites, actors, community figures, and the common people themselves must be ensured to prevent this from happening. “Our democracy is only attached to performing procedures, without caring for the substance and spirit of it,” she said. “This is a serious challenge for Indonesia’s democracy. The lack of commitment and the low quality of law enforcement obstructs the development of our democracy, keeping it from improving in quality. Compatible cultural values and the positive roles of our elites and actors would definitely help our democratic processes.”

Similar to Siti, Idil Akbar sees that democracy in Indonesia is based on slogans only. Our democratic participation is only limited to mobilization to participate in democratic processes, only to mobilize the people and make them vote in terms of quantity. The people have not considered quality in involving themselves in Elections. The politics of slogans is still very much in force, yet the people are not truly involved in creating political narratives for the 2019 Elections. Indonesia is still in the stage of democratic mobilization. Its people are not yet in democratic consolidation. This is the result we are striving for.

It is actually not hard for Indonesia to implement democracy. Democratic processes are carried out in many countries. In fact, the United States required hundreds of years before it obtained clear democratic consolidation. Europe also required hundreds of years: it first had to go through the Dark Ages, then the Renaissance, and finally the Industrial Revolution before it finally implemented the values of democracy. “I think it is pushing ourselves too hard if we are asked to implement democracy properly. It would be better for us to follow the process without losing our substance as citizens, while remaining critical of the Government within the limits of democracy,” Idil Akbar said.

Ray Rangkuti stated that the political characteristics of Indonesia prevents democracy from running properly in our country. However, we already have good principles, such as freedom being protected by law. This is what makes Indonesia still a democracy. However, there are several technical elements that differ from the basic principles of democracy, and it is worsened by the attitude and behavior of some of our politicians, ones who remain the same as during the New Order era. The potential of anti-democracy comes from definitions and perspectives of issues such as criminalization.

It is not hard to implement democracy in Indonesia, especially since we will have a new generation leading us in 2024, whether on the national or regional level. We hope that with younger leaders and more experience, our developing democracy will generate more democratic leaders than in the previous eras. “Therefore, I am optimistic that the implementation of democracy in Indonesia in the future will be better,” he said.

The Need of a Fact-Finding Team

Siti stated that the Government is fully responsible for the organization and success of Elections and with its authority and facilities, the Government should encourage the formation of a Fact-Finding Team (Tim Pencari Fakta – “TPF”). Or non-Government elements in the community might form a TPF by themselves in order to respond to the rumors of fraud that have been going on. This is necessary in order to seek solutions for electoral problems, and to establish trust as well. Elections this year have been distorted by negative, law-violating actions and behavior. It is an accumulation of the many bad practices that have been occurring in previous Elections. “Protests, picketing, and the people’s disappointment shows that too many rules have been violated in the Elections. The bureaucracy is nearly perfectly politicized,” she said.

Idil Akbar believes that there are many considerations why Joko Widodo-Ma’ruf Amin’s National Campaign Team (Tim Kampanye Nasional – “TKN Jokowi-Ma’ruf”) does not want a TPF to be formed. On the other hand, BPN Prabowo-Sandi demands the formation of a TPF and asked the House of Representatives (Dewan Perwakilan Rakyat – “DPR”) to create a special electoral investigation team. It is very difficult to reconcile these opposing stances, but at least they both agree to wait for the results of the Elections and observe how KPU performs. We have legal structures in terms of our Election Laws, and that is the best thing to do for now. If we are still unsatisfied with the condition – and it is difficult to be satisfied because political mechanism is really unending, and it is very difficult to guarantee the resolution of the issue, “The only recourse is the law, wherein the Constitution Court is the final resort for obtaining certainty and guarantee that our Elections are good, democratic, and without fraud,” he said.

Idil Akbar considers the Government’s efforts to do everything to maintain its power to be part of a political strategy to get the people’s support. Leaders might make populist policies, which is something that any person might do under the circumstances.

TKN refuses to establish a TPF, even though they admit to fraud. We the people shouldn’t have asked TKN to approve the creation of the TPF, we should have asked it to DPR. “We must push DPR or the National Human Rights’ Commission (Komisi Nasional Hak Asasi Manusia – “Komnas HAM”) to establish a TPF. This is always the case with fraud – it is imposed to wrap up and facilitate the desire to maintain power. Because the Government is democratic, there is always a possibility that others might control the power; damage control can come from political economic groups,” Margarito said.

According to Ray Rangkuti, the formation of a TPF is not too urgent, especially if the purpose is only to expose the many electoral frauds in Indonesia, because we have basically all the necessary electoral monitoring agencies. We need only make the necessary separation. For example, cases relating to police neutrality would be handled by the National Police Commission (Komisi Kepolisian Nasional – “Kompolnas”), those relating to State Civil Apparatus (Aparatur Sipil Negara – “ASN”) neutrality would be handled by the State Civil Apparatus Commission (Komisi Aparatur Sipil Negara – “KASN”), while technical violation and dispute cases would be handled by Bawaslu. “It would be best if all violations that are found be submitted directly to Bawaslu and we insist that it’s all resolved ASAP,” he said

As long as the Elections are democratic, said Ray Rangkuti, there must be two obvious issues where public involvement is very high, due to the strong desire of the people to monitor results (public attention to the Elections being 80%). This is different from previous Elections. Participation level is extremely high due to a high level of interest. The media used is also more varied, as various social media platforms are now included in the public’s reaction and involvement in the Elections. Naturally, a lot of hoaxes become mixed in with the truth in all social media statements.

People Power

Siti has not seen any anti-democracy movements being developed in Indonesia. On the contrary, there is a lot of movement for establishing values that would prevent the death of Indonesia’s democracy. If law enforcement is prioritized, all violations can be resolved and decided upon through legal means. On the contrary, if distrust of legal channels is apparent, the people would rather protest and picket. People power is considered to be more representative and reliable as a forum for expressing their disappointment, annoyance, dissatisfaction, and demands.

Idil Akbar stated that the two major opposing teams are the one espousing nationalism and the one supporting the majority religion. In other words, our politics is mostly identity politics. The groups’ rivalry tends to be related to national pride, unity and diversity, and tolerance. Yet we should be talking in Indonesian narratives by now. “When faced with electoral dynamics, this should be simply part of differences in the Elections, not expanding to social groups in the community,” he said.

Idil further said that there are different views of people power. “I want to slightly criticize Wiranto’s statement about taking people power too far and make it seem to be a conspiracy. It is erroneous if the narrative takes people power as an effort to delegitimize Elections. It should not be so. In the end, we must return to our basic identity as a people who negotiate. Our elites should meet up and explain the problems faced by our nation today. This is a much calmer way to do things,” he said.

There is always a potential for anti-democracy, especially in democratic governments. The democratic government of the United States is the “dirtiest” Government extant. The President may act as if there are no limitations in making any decision, no matter how strategic it might be. The American president has been under constant criticism since his campaign days, and the criticisms continue from the moment he stepped into power, but he remains OK above it all.

If KPU decides to place Prabowo and Sandi as the losing party, the only recourse to us is to pray to the greatest extent so that God would show the right path for this nation. “I have not found a political way to resolve this fraud. I think that going to the Constitution Court is useless. Asking it to correct a difference of millions of votes is like asking someone to carry the wind on our backs – it is too wondrously impossible,” Margarito said.

Ray Rangkuti stated that people power in Indonesia is actually not the same as conspiracy. It is only something that is desired and said, but it is hard to implement people power in our current condition. Socio-political application of people power is possible if mass organizations such as Nahdlatul Ulama and Muhammadiyah are involved. “However, Muhammadiyah and NU categorically refused the use of people power. They say that fraud must be prosecuted through legal means, not people power,” he said. (Dessy Aipipidely, Ekawati)