Indonesia forms legal team to combat verbal attacks on electoral integrity

Protesters demanding the National Commission of Elections to be fair, as the tally of votes for the recent general election continues, in Bandung, Indonesia, on April 29, 2019.
Protesters demanding the National Commission of Elections to be fair, as the tally of votes for the recent general election continues, in Bandung, Indonesia, on April 29, 2019.PHOTO: AFP

JAKARTA - Indonesia is to set up a national legal team to study verbal attacks, curses, hate speech and defamation made against the government or the general election commission (KPU) after recent accusations caused disquiet.

In a second media briefing dismissing an allegation by former army general Prabowo Subianto that last month's general election was rigged, Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs Wiranto said the government is prepared to take legal action against those who continue to act unconstitutionally, while unrightfully attempting to delegitimise the election process and divide society.

"The team is complete. We have invited law professors and doctors from various universities. Their views support ours - the attacks on the legitimate government, curses on the legitimate president shall not be ignored," Mr Wiranto told reporters in his office.

"There are laws and sanctions for all these. We will prosecute anyone - be they prominent persons, former generals. No problem. If they breach a law, we must take firm actions."

Incumbent President Joko Widodo faced sole rival Mr Prabowo in the April 17 elections.

Early, unofficial quick counts by pollsters, which have proved reliable in the past three elections, show Mr Joko winning re-election by a comfortable margin. Officials results are due by May 22 at the latest.

In the last election in 2014, when Mr Joko had a majority 53 per cent vote, Mr Prabowo also challenged the election results.

 
 
 
 

Mr Prabowo, his aides and some supporters alleged that last month's election was rigged against him, and Mr Prabowo himself has made repeated early claims that he instead won a big majority, citing internal vote counting.

Other supporters of Mr Prabowo, however, have not supported his unilateral claim of victory. They include leaders of former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's Democratic Party, part of Mr Prabowo's coalition, and several cadres from the National Mandate Party (PAN), another party in Mr Prabowo's coalition.

Mr Joko has acknowledged the quick count results but has not claimed victory outright. He has instead appealed to his supporters to wait for official results from the KPU.

Mr Amien Rais, the honorary council chairman of the National Mandate Party (PAN), which is part of Mr Prabowo's coalition, said in a public discussion over the weekend that the April 17 election was rigged "systematically, massively and brutally" while urging "people power" to fight against it.

Mr Amien was a key politician behind the reform movement two decades ago that forced the resignation of then authoritarian president Suharto in 1998.

During Saturday's discussion, Mr Amien said that vote-rigging happened because the KPU is backed by the incumbent candidate Mr Joko, calling the election commission "a political being created by the ruling government".

At his media briefing on Monday, Mr Wiranto urged people stop attempting to divide the country, to delegitimise the government, spread defamation and commit hate speech.

He reiterated that the KPU is independent and that any claims of vote-rigging could be channelled to the election supervisory agency (Bawaslu), which functions as the watchdog of the five-yearly polls, and the constitutional court, which makes rulings on election disputes.

The government earlier said that Indonesian law stipulates that Parliament - which consists of MPs from parties that both back Mr Joko and Mr Prabowo - picks the commissioners of the KPU and Bawaslu, stressing that they are not appointed by the President.

Mr Wiranto on Monday also pointed out that it is ironic that the April 17 election, which was among the largest and most complicated in the world, received positive acknowledgement from the global community while certain domestic parties thought otherwise.