Indonesia officials in Malaysia probe alleged rigging of overseas voters' ballot papers

An Indonesian election commission worker at the storage area where ballot boxes and voting materials are prepared, in Pademangan on April 11, 2019. ST PHOTO: ARIFFIN JAMAR

JAKARTA - Indonesia's election commission (KPU) visited Selangor, Malaysia, on Friday (April 12) to investigate the discovery of thousands of ballot papers that had allegedly been illegally marked in favour of incumbent Indonesian President Joko Widodo, who is seeking re-election.

Indonesians living overseas have from April 8 to 14 to vote for either Mr Joko or sole rival, former army general Prabowo Subianto, while at home, voters go to the ballot box on April 17.

There are 1.1 million eligible Indonesian voters in Malaysia, the biggest group of Indonesian voters overseas. Indonesian voters in Malaysia can vote only on Sunday.

Video footage showing people raiding a shophouse in Selangor, Malaysia, has been making the rounds on social media.

They were seen unpacking bags containing marked ballots. In one video, people held up the ballots showing they were marked in favour of Mr Joko and running mate, senior cleric Ma'ruf Amin, and legislative candidates of a political party backing the incumbent.

The KPU team left for Malaysia early on Friday morning, carrying with them a scanner that can check whether ballot papers are genuine or counterfeit, Mr Viryan Aziz, a KPU commissioner, told reporters.

"All ballot papers have a hidden feature that only KPU knows and can check using a special device. We will do the checks transparently before Bawaslu and other relevant parties," Mr Viryan said.

Bawaslu is short for Elections Supervisory Agency, an independent body that oversees KPU, handles election disputes and ensures the process is carried out in a fair and transparent manner.

It also monitors abuse of power by public officials and ensures candidates do not employ unfair practices to influence an election result.

"This (Friday) afternoon, the team in Malaysia will do all factual data checks and in the evening will meet all relevant parties," KPU chief commissioner Arif Budiman told Jakarta-based Elshinta radio, adding that the team will be back in Jakarta on Friday to discuss the findings.

Mr Arif and colleagues said the ballot papers were found at a privately-owned shophouse but should have been stored at the Indonesian embassy.

"We will make sure whoever is at fault behind this would be held responsible. But let's follow the process first," Mr Arif said, stressing that if any of its members are implicated, the KPU will take harsh measures.

Mr Joko told reporters that it is within the jurisdiction of Bawaslu to handle the case, and appealed to the independent agency to carry out its investigation "thoroughly and promptly".

"Let them check and do investigation - Bawaslu as well as the police. If anything is breached, Bawaslu can take action," said Mr Joko.

"If there is crime, police must be firm and enforce the law. This is so the election is held honestly and fairly. Don't let this case worry the people."

Rival candidate Prabowo's running mate, Mr Sandiaga Uno, also called for an expeditious investigation to be completed prior to the April 17 polls so voters would not lose confidence.

"This would be a litmus test on whether justice is upheld, whether the law is sharp against the opposition camp but dull towards the incumbent," Mr Sandiaga told reporters while on the campaign trail in Palembang, South Sumatra.

"This incident really revived public distrust towards the current process of democracy. The law must be enforced against those that marked the ballot papers and the people that would benefit from the action."

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