Category: General

More than 300 election workers in Indonesia die of exhaustion

At least 287 polling station workers and 18 police officers have died mainly from exhaustion and illnesses associated with overwork after Indonesia’s elections this month, officials said Monday.

The world’s fourth-largest country held the legislative and presidential elections in a single day for the first time on April 17, but the high death toll prompted public calls for the polls to be held separately. 

“So far, 287 election workers across the country have died and 2,095 have fallen ill,” said Arief Priyo Susanto, spokesman for the General Election Commission.

“The main cause of the deaths is exhaustion and some accidents and illnesses caused by exhaustion,” he added.

The electoral commission said a total of 150 workers died from similar causes during the 2014 presidential and legislative elections, which were held three months apart. 

More than seven million workers were involved in what many experts described as the world’s largest and most complicated single-day election, with voting and vote-counting conducted manually. 

Nearly 193 million Indonesians were eligible to vote, with the turnout estimated at 81 per cent.

Voters elected a president, 575 members of the House of Representatives, 136 members of the Regional Representative Council and almost 20,000 members of local legislatures.

Officials said holding the elections simultaneously was a cost-saving measure, but it has proved to be a massive logistical challenge to distribute ballot papers and ballot boxes across the far-flung archipelago. 

National police spokesman Dedi Prasetyo said 18 officers also died from working long hours during the elections. 

The government has promised to provide compensation of up to 36 million rupiah (2,500 dollars) for surviving families.

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Prabowo tells pollsters to move to Antarctica as he rejects unofficial election results

Indonesian presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto on Friday accused pollsters of lying after unofficial counts showed he lost this week’s election to incumbent President Joko Widodo, telling them to move to Antarctica.

Prabowo has rejected the so-called quick counts, released by private pollsters from samples of polling stations, that give Joko an 8-percentage-point lead over Prabowo.

“Ladies and gentlemen, do you trust fake pollsters?” Prabowo asked more than 1,000 supporters gathering outside his house in south Jakarta.

The crowd responded in unison: “No!”

“You cheating pollsters may be able to lie to penguins in Antarctica, but Indonesia doesn’t want to listen to you anymore,” Prabowo said.

Supporters gathered outside Prabowo’s spacious house and chanted religious songs after Friday prayers.

Quick counts have proved accurate in predicting winners in past Indonesian elections.

But Prabowo said that actual votes at more than 300,000 polling stations showed him leading with 62 per cent.

Prabowo said Thursday that he had won the presidency and urged his supporters to monitor the official vote count to stop cheating.

“We are declaring our victory early because we have proof that there have been various attempts at fraud in many villages, sub-districts, districts and cities across Indonesia,” he said.

Official results will not be announced until later next month. 

He made a similar claim of victory in 2014 after unofficial counts showed that he lost narrowly to Joko.  

Joko, for his part, said that he had “99 per cent” confidence in the quick count results pointing to his victory.

Indonesia’s armed forces chief, Air Marshal Hadi Tjahjanto, warned that any unrest would be dealt with sternly. 

“We will not tolerate and will take stern action against attempts to disturb public order or unconstitutional acts that undermine the democratic process,” he said. 

Prabowo declares victory, claims fraud attempts by opponents after Indonesian election

Indonesian President Joko Widodo appeared set to win a second term after this week’s election, according to unofficial counts, but his rival declared victory and claimed widespread attempts at cheating.

Unofficial tallies from Wednesday’s presidential election put Joko on track for a second term with a 8-point lead over former general Prabowo Subianto.

The quick counts from a sample of representative polling stations put Joko ahead with around 54 per cent, while Prabowo trailed on 46 per cent.

Such counts have proved accurate in predicting past election winners in Indonesia.

But Prabowo rejected the unofficial tally and claimed that counts of actual votes at more than 300,000 polling stations showed him leading with 62 per cent.

He remained defiant on Thursday, claiming victory once again and accusing his opponents of trying to rig the election.  

“Today I, Prabowo Subianto and Sandiaga Salahuddin Uno, declare our victory as president and vice president of the Republic of Indonesia for the period of 2019-2024 based on more than 62 per cent of our real vote calculation,” Prabowo told a news conference at his house.

“We are declaring our victory early because we have proof that there have been various attempts at fraud in many villages, sub-districts, districts and cities across Indonesia,” he added.

He made a similar claim of victory in 2014 after unofficial counts showed that he lost narrowly to Joko.  

Joko said he had received congratulations from Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad on the successful election. 

Plans by Prabowo’s supporters to hold a rally in central Jakarta on Friday to celebrate victory have raised fears of unrest. 

But Indonesia’s armed forces chief, Air Marshal Hadi Tjahjanto, warned that security forces were “ready to maintain security and stability.” 

“We will not tolerate and will take stern action against attempts to disturb public order or unconstitutional acts that undermine the democratic process,” he told a news conference on Thursday. 

Quick counts from the legislative election showed Joko’s Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) leading with around 20 per cent. 

Gerindra, the party of opposition presidential candidate Prabowo, came second with nearly 13 per cent. 

Both parties carry nationalist platforms. 

Official results will not be announced until later next month. 

Sixteen national political parties contested 575 seats in the national parliament in Wednesday’s legislative election.

About 193 million people, including 80 million people born after 1980, were eligible to vote, according to the General Elections Commission.

Turnout was 81 per cent, an increase from 70 per cent in 2014, according to security minister Wiranto.  

Some voters in Papua, the country’s easternmost province, were scheduled to cast their ballots on Thursday after election supplies were not distributed on voting day.

Jokowi: No longer a political outsider

When Joko Widodo was elected president in 2014, he was hailed as the first Indonesian leader with no ties to the country’s military and political elites.

Now, Joko is seeking a second term as president in Wednesday’s election with the support of political parties with the most seats in parliament and several former generals with ties to the country’s autocratic past.

Joko grew up in a poor neighbourhood in the Central Java town of
Solo, where his father worked as a carpenter, according to his
official biography.

He helped his father with work after school and sold home-made snacks
to supplement the family’s income.

Critics say his family was actually middle-class and owned a
furniture business, and that the story of his humble beginnings was
played up to appeal to voters.

Jokowi, as he is better known, graduated with a degree in forestry
management from Gadjah Mada University, one of the country’s best,
and later started his own furniture business.

He was elected mayor of his native Solo in 2005 and again in 2010,
developing a reputation as a proactive leader with a common touch.

His folksy style has endeared him to regular people.

In 2012, he was elected governor of Jakarta after promising to
tackle the city’s perennial problems, including chronic congestion
and flooding.

He did not solve either, but did kick off two major public
transportation projects in his constituency, and was praised for
streamlining the bureaucracy and providing free health care for the
poor.

As governor he frequently visited Jakarta’s poor neighbourhoods and
talked to residents, a practice that has become known locally as “blusukan.”

The story of his humble beginnings and simple lifestyle appears to
resonate with ordinary Indonesians.

Joko’s account of his life is a departure in Indonesian politics,
where it was previously unthinkable for someone from a humble
background to become even a party leader.

A heavy metal fan, Joko has been seen at several concerts and
mingled with fans at gigs.

But Joko is not without critics.

His promise for a departure from politics as usual remains largely unfulfilled.

After being elected in 2014, he filled his cabinet with officials from political parties that supported him, despite a promise not to be beholden to vested interests.  

Opponents have accused him of engaging more in ceremonial activities than actual governing during his first term in office.

He frequently jets to remote parts of the far-flung archipelago to inaugurate projects.

Analysts and rights groups say he has allowed human rights, respect for the rule of law and the protection of minorities to deteriorate during his firm term.

“Law enforcement has become politicized, with government critics arrested and jailed on questionable charges,” said Ben Bland, an Indonesia expert at Lowy Institute, an Australian think tank.

But the married father-of-three remains the most popular politician in Indonesia.

Recent polls suggested that he had a comfortable two-digit lead over his opponent, former general Prabowo Subianto.

Old rivals face off in Indonesia’s presidential election

 When Indonesian voters go to the polls on Wednesday, they will have to choose between an incumbent whose man-of-the people image has been tarnished and a nationalist former general with a questionable human rights record.

The election pitting Joko Widodo and Prabowo Subianto is a repeat of the 2014 poll, which Joko narrowly won.

Joko appears to be on track for re-election, with most recent polls suggesting he has a comfortable two-digit lead, but analysts say Prabowo could still pull off a surprise.

When Joko won the election five years ago, he was an outsider with no ties to the country’s political and military elite, having risen from obscurity as a furniture businessman who later became the mayor of the mid-sized town of Solo in Central Java. 

Today he counts former generals with ties to the country’s autocratic past among his trusted aides.

Joko has touted his successes in improving the country’s dilapidated infrastructure by building new roads, ports, airports and dams.

His government has completed a trans-Java highway stretching about 1,000 kilometres and built or renovated airports and seaports. He also recently inaugurated the first metro line in the capital, Jakarta. 

But Joko’s human rights record still leaves much too be desired, activist groups and analysts say. 

Rights activists say he has not pursued meaningful policy initiatives to address past human rights violations, a key campaign promise.

The president also appears to be increasingly thin-skinned in the face of criticism. 

Joko “has allowed human rights, the rule of law and the protection of minorities to weaken since he was elected in 2014,” said Ben Bland, an Indonesia expert at the Lowy Institute, an Australian think tank.

“Law enforcement has become politicized, with government critics arrested and jailed on questionable charges,” he wrote on the institute’s website.

The president has failed to stem the anti-gay hysteria that has gripped the country over the past three years.

Police have raided places frequented by gay people and briefly detained hundreds suspected of being homosexual.

The Pariaman city government on Sumatra island last year issued a bylaw that imposes a fine of up to 1 million rupiah (71 dollars) on gay and transgender people “who conduct activity that disturbs public order” or commit “immoral same-sex acts.”

Joko’s choice as his running mate of senior Muslim cleric Ma’ruf Amin, who is known for his anti-gay views, has raised concerns that he is pandering to the religious right.

Ma’ruf, the head the Indonesian Council of Ulema (MUI), the country’s semi-official clerical body, has said that homosexuality should be criminalized and that the Ahmadiyya Muslim sect is not part of Islam.

On the economic front, growth has been stagnant, at around 5 per cent annually, falling short of Joko’s campaign promise of 7 per cent. 

Analysts said Indonesia’s economy needs to grow faster than 5 per cent to escape the so-called “middle income trap,” a phenomenon in which a country’s growth slows after reaching certain levels.

The country has also struggled with a widening account deficit and a weak currency, which fell in September to the lowest level since the 1997-1998 Asian financial crisis.

Corruption in the government remains rampant despite Joko’s reputation as incorruptible. Several of his political allies have been jailed or arrested for corruption.

Setya Novanto, chairman of the Golkar party, a member of the ruling coalition, was last year sentenced to 15 years in jail for receiving 7.3 million dollars in kickbacks for garnering parliamentary support for a 440-million-dollar government project to issue electronic ID cards.

Prabowo has promised to treat all citizens equally, regardless of their ethnicity or religion. 

“Our teachers, our Islamic clerics have always taught us that Indonesia’s Islam is one that brings good to all things in the universe,” Prabowo told more than 100,000 supporters during a rally in Jakarta recently.

But many remain suspicious of the challenger. 

Prabowo, a firebrand nationalist, counts among his supporters conservative Muslim groups that have persecuted minority Islamic sects and are opposed to gay rights.

“Minority groups like us can’t expect much of either candidate,” said a spokesman for the Ahmadiyah Indonesia Community, Yendra Budiana.

“But it’s especially so for Prabowo, as he is supported by hardline groups,” he said.

Prabowo himself has been accused of human rights violations during his time in the army in the 1990s, including over the kidnappings and disappearances of pro-democracy activists in the dying days of the Suharto regime in 1998.

He has denied the allegations.

This year’s election will be held simultaneously with parliamentary polls, which are being contested by 16 national parties.

Nearly 250,000 candidates are vying for more than 20,000 seats in the national, provincial and municipal parliaments.

About 193 million people, including 80 million people born after 1980, are eligible to vote, making it the world’s biggest direct presidential election, according to the General Election Commission. 

There will be around 800,000 polling stations and six million election workers.

Jokowi favoured for re-election, but Prabowo closing in

Indonesian President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo was in a combative mood during a campaign rally over the weekend, as he made late pitches to voters ahead of next month’s presidential election.

“I have been slandered, I have been accused of things, I was vilified and looked down on and I have been silent,” he said at a campaign stop in the central Java city of Yogyakarta on Saturday.

“But today, in Yogyakarta I say, I will fight!” he said to the cheers of his supporters who shouted: “Fight! Fight!”

Jokowi was alluding to accusations from his critics that he is anti-Muslim, that he would ban the Islamic call to prayer if he wins a second five-year term in the April 17 election, and other attacks on his character.

The president has reason to worry.

A new poll suggested that his opponent, former general Prabowo Subianto, is gaining ground.

A survey by the private pollster Litbang Kompas released last week found that Jokowi was likely to win 49.2 per cent, while Prabowo was favoured by 37.4 per cent. About 13 per cent of respondents were undecided.

It was a wake-up call for Jokowi, who had a comfortable lead of nearly 20 per cent in October.

Analysts say Jokowi appears on track for re-election if various polls are anything to go by, but Prabowo could still pull off a surprise.

“Anything can happen during the remaining campaign period,” said Adi Prayitno, a political analyst at Syarif Hidayatullah Islamic University in Jakarta.  

“The Kompas survey shows that the gap is narrowing and this should be a cause for concern for Jokowi,” he said.

Prabowo, a former special forces commander and now a wealthy businessman, has portrayed himself as a champion of the poor.

At a campaign rally on Monday in Papua province, one of the country’s poorest regions, he lambasted what he called “the Jakarta elite,” which he said has failed to bring prosperity to the people.

“The elite are only concerned about their own interests,” Prabowo told the crowd who shouted his name. “Their only motive is to enrich themselves and their relatives.” 

Jokowi has touted successes in improving the country’s dilapidated infrastructure by building new roads, ports, airports and dams.

Meanwhile, the Prabowo camp has accused the current administration of failing to shore up the economy, currently growing at 5 per cent annually, and of having a penchant for debt.

The country has also struggled with a widening current account deficit and a weak currency, which fell in September to the lowest level since the 1997-1998 Asian financial crisis.

The April election is a repeat of the 2014 poll, when Jokowi beat Prabowo narrowly after a divisive campaign period marked by mudslinging from both sides, including accusations that Joko was an ethnic Chinese communist.

This year’s election will be held simultaneously with the parliamentary polls, which are contested by 16 national parties.

Nearly 250,000 candidates are vying for the more than 20,000 seats in national, provincial and municipal parliaments.

About 193 million people, including 80 million people born after 1980, are eligible to vote, making it the world’s biggest direct presidential election, according to the General Election Commission. 

There will be around 800,000 polling stations and six million election workers.

Jokowi has chosen Ma’ruf Amin, a conservative Muslim cleric and chairman of the semi-official Indonesian Ulema Council, as his vice presidential candidate, apparently to fend off accusations that he is insufficiently Islamic.

But conservative Muslims appear determined to prevent him from being re-elected by rallying around Prabowo, according to the the Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict (IPAC) in a report released this month.

“The Islamists already have had a major impact on the campaign by forcing Jokowi to defend allegations that he is anti-Islam and anti-poor and by moving the definition of what constitutes moderation to the right,” the report said.

“Their support for [Prabowo] is conditional and half-hearted, but measures taken by the Jokowi government to try to weaken, co-opt and stigmatize them as extremists have only strengthened what otherwise would be a fragile alliance,” it said.

Indonesia threatens retaliation over EU palm oil ‘intimidation’

Biofuel producers in Indonesia called on the Indonesian government and European Union to find a “win-win solution” to a dispute over an EU legislation that will phase out palm oil-based biofuel manufacturing in the bloc, risking jobs and billions of dollars in Indonesia’s revenue.

Last week, Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs, Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan, warned that if the EU implements a ban on palm oil imports, Indonesia would retaliate strongly with possible bans on European products, including passengers jets, train coaches, and motor vehicles.

“We want a win-win solution. Retaliation is not a favorable option but, eventually, what else can we do? It could become necessary if we keep being intimidated,” said Master Parulian Tumanggor, chairman of the Indonesia’s Biodiesel Producers Association.

“If they stop biofuel, millions (of workers and farmers) will become unemployed. We don’t want that,” he added.

ILT-Riau haze 177

Pandjaitan said that with Indonesia’s aviation industry expected to expand threefold by 2034, the country will require about 2,500 aircraft in the next two decades — a big market for European companies.

Aircraft demand from Indonesia is worth more than $40 billion and it will create millions of jobs.

“It’s a matter of survival. If they treat us like this, we will retaliate strongly. We are not a poor country, we are a developing country and we have a big potential,” Pandjaitan said in a briefing with the EU ambassador to Indonesia, Vincent Guerend, and European investors.

Darmin Nasution, chief economic minister, said Indonesia is considering a challenge to the EU legislation via the World Trade Organization, and will seek support from the Council of Palm Oil Producing Countries and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

Indonesia and Malaysia together produce about 85 percent of the world’s palm oil.

Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi spoke with her Malaysian counterpart, Saifuddin Abdullah, on the sidelines of Organization of Islamic Cooperation emergency meeting in Istanbul on Friday.

“We agreed to work together to fight against discrimination of palm oil in the EU,” she said via Twitter.

Nasution said palm oil contributed $17.89 billion to Indonesia’s economy in 2018 and almost 20 million workers depended on the plantations for their livelihood.

On March 13 the European Commission adopted new rules on biofuels based on sustainability criteria with a two-month scrutiny period. The EU said “best available scientific data” show palm oil plantations are a major cause of deforestation and climate change.

Palm oil plantations in Indonesia have resulted in massive deforestation on the islands of Sumatra and Kalimantan.

Guerend acknowledged the importance of palm oil to Indonesia in terms of jobs, but said that there was some flexibility in the regulation.

“It will be further modified in a few years’ time. It’s not cast in stone forever as the industry is dynamic, expanding, and reforming, and we take that into account,” he said.

“Our invitation for everyone is to work on sustainability because it’s in everybody’s interest,” he added.

This story was first published on Arab News