Tag: elections

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.

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Indonesia prepares for simultaneous regional elections

Indonesian President Joko Widodo has announced the country’s first simultaneous elections for regional heads will be a national holiday, to the delight of school children and office workers.

The elections, scheduled for December 9, will take place in nine provinces, 224 regencies and 36 cities.

The next batch of local elections is scheduled to be held in February 2017 in seven provinces, 76 regencies and 18 cities. In June 2018, polls for local chiefs will be held in 17 provinces, 115 regencies and 39 cities.

Revelations of fake documents, infighting between rival factions within political parties, legal and health status of candidates, as well as other administrative issues have marred the upcoming December elections.

However, the government insists that they will go ahead as scheduled.

Simultaneous, nationwide local elections will be held in 2027. Elected governors will be inaugurated at the same time by the president afterwards.

The Indonesian Constitutional Court in July ruled in favour of a petition to repeal an article in the Regional Election  Law banning family members of an incumbent from running for executives positions.

The court argued that the Constitution guarantees the right of every individual to elect and be elected.

Vote count in Indonesia elections
Vote count in Indonesia elections

Political dynasties

The court’s ruling has drawn heavy criticism, as the provision in the election law was intended to rein in dynasty politics, which has become entrenched in Indonesia since decentralization was introduced in 2001.

Legal experts and democracy activists say the practices of patronage, nepotism, cronyism and rent seeking have led to the embezzlement of massive amounts of money from regional coffers

The petitioner, Adnan Purichta Ichsan, is a member of the South Sulawesi Regional Representatives Council (DPRD) and is the son of incumbent Gowa Regent Ichsan Yasin Limpo and nephew of current South Sulawesi Governor Syahrul Yasin Limpo.

Adnan’s grandfather Muhammad was also a former Gowa regent.

Adnan is planning to run in the upcoming regional election scheduled in December this year, seeking to replace his father as Gowa regent. The Limpo family also has brothers, sisters, sons and in-laws in key posts in regional legislatures and the House of Representatives (DPR).

There are dozens of family dynasties that rule in different parts of Indonesia, creating concern that nepotism is taking a whole new level in regional elections, a practice despised by the majority of Indonesians.

Another notorious family dynasty in Indonesian politics is Ratu Atut Chosiyah, former governor of Banten who is currently in jail for corruption.

Atut has dozens of family members in top posts in Banten province at regency, city and provincial levels, including in regional legislative bodies and party leadership.