Friday, June 21, 2024 | 14:03 WIB

The ball is in your court, Mr. President

IO – The evidence of dirty games being played to steal away the 2019 presidential election is overwhelming:  millions of fictitious names on the voter registration roll; the use of state funds to sway voter sentiment; numerous videos taken at polling stations showing pre-marked ballot paper in favor of the incumbent; and most damning, documented evidence in possession of the National Committee to Elect Prabowo-Sandi that reveals the National Election Commission, or KPU, vote count has been subject to massive fraud.

 Instead of taking these allegations seriously, the Jokowi administration has doubled down on its insistence the elections were clean and fair.  It has allowed the KPU to continue displaying its so-called ‘real count’ to the public even though there is sufficient evidence it is far from real.  Angry voters who have had good cause to believe the elections were stolen are being painted by the authorities as sore losers and troublemakers.

Even worse and more worrisome is the authoritarian measures being taken against public figures leading demonstrations against the electoral authorities.  One example is retired general Kivlan Zen, who is being charged with spreading hoaxes and commiting acts of treason.   AM Hendropriyono, a former spy chief and known to be a close advisor to Jokowi, told the press the government is simply ‘following the law’.  Then there is retired general Wiranto, the coordinating minister for politics and legal affairs.  Also known to be a member of the president’s inner circle, Wiranto has told the press he is assembling a legal team to study ways in which the government could effectively censor and shut down social media for spreading for what they deem to be hoaxes and fake news.

The fact such New Order tactics are being used to intimidate those who dare speak the truth and criminalize prominent critics is hardly surprising.  Democratic backsliding has been a major feature of Jokowi’s presidency ever since he has come to power, mostly at the direction of Suharto holdovers such as Hendropriyono, Luhut Panjaitan and Wiranto.  Only now they have showed their hand clearly in cracking down on supporters of the opposition who are demanding the government temporarily shut down the KPU’s real count until a credible forensic IT audit can be conducted to settle the entire matter.  

 Until now, the government has remained adamant the case should be sent to the courts.  It has not entertained either demand of postponing the real count or a forensic audit.  By doing so they have only heightened suspicions amongst the public:  if, in fact, the elections were clean as the government claims, then why should they reject an audit?  And by saying the opposition should simply take their case to court and get off the streets, this only raises the thorny question of whether or not the courts can be trusted.  After all, if there were a conspiracy to commit fraud, then relying upon the courts would be tantamount to telling a victim of theft they should go complain to the thief.

What happens next and how this sordid affair is finally settled is still unclear.  Yet there are a few certainties.  One is that, short of a forensic audit, the BPN will reject the KPU’s real count.   Another certainty is that if the government continues to dig in and criminalize those who are claiming fraud then there will a mounting number of protestors on the streets.  This only raises the risk of conflagration and an even deeper polarization between the masses and the government.

 As president, it now behooves Jokowi to take the necessary steps to de-escalate tensions.  First and foremost, he should tell his men that they should stop bending the law and cease dubious legal cases against the opposition.  He should instruct the KPU to cease its real count and then invite Prabowo to the palace to discuss how they can jointly appoint a team of experts to conduct a forensic audit of the KPU database.  By doing so, he would not only show Indonesians he has honest intentions, he would have taken the only measure available to avoid potential chaos.

 If Jokowi stands ground and insists the KPU’s real count will validate his victory, then he is the person who must take the responsibility for whatever happens next.  He must be mindful it is neither unconstitutional nor an act of treason to assemble and protest when one has good reason to believe their democracy has been stolen.    It is the president’s job to ensure the people trust him and his cohorts in power.  If he has lost that trust, he only has himself to blame.  And if the country suffers a setback as a result, it will be his legacy alone.