Indonesia's Fraud-Riddled Election

— Emily Citkowski

Please note that this article went to press before the referendum in East Timor and the resulting reactionary violence that followed.

THE ELECTIONS ARE over in Indonesia.  The international press, calling them "the first free and fair elections in over 44 years," noted the relative lack of violence during the campaign period leading up to the June 7 vote.

On July 26 the KPU (Electoral Commission) was supposed to ratify the election results but only seventeen of the forty-eight parties signed.  Many of the parties who refused to sign cited fraud as the reason.  The bylaws of the Electoral Commission stipulate that two-thirds of the KPU must sign for the vote count to be official.  [Ultimately the results were ratified by presidential order, without the Commission's endorsement.-ed.]

According to the final unofficial tabulation, reformer Megawati Sukarnoputri's PDI-P has received 33.7% of the vote. The ruling Golkar came in second with 22.4%.  Gus Dur's Muslim reform party is next with 12.6% of the vote, and the PPP (formerly one of the two government sanctioned opposition parties) received 10.7%.  Muslim intellectual Amien Rais' party PAN did worse than expected, garnering only about 4.1%.

International organizations like the United Nations Development Program, who put $94 million into ensuring the election would be fair (the United States gave an additional $22 million), praised the process, giving themselves a pat on the back for all they had contributed.  The Carter Center, who sent monitors-including Jimmy-lauded the "commitment to democracy, openness, and transparency," although they also added that the painfully slow process of counting the votes might shake some people's faith in the process and lead to "confusion and some suspicion" by the public.

Everyone admitted that there were some flaws in the system and cheating in the process, but a little of that was to be expected, especially in Indonesia.  No one wanted to burst the bubble, and counter the tide of support for the election process and the democratic reform which must surely result from the great spectacle of the campaigns.

In reality, the independent election monitoring committee KIPP has documented numerous incidents of poll violation.  These include botched ballot papers or not enough ballots for registered voters in various provinces, and water soluble "indelible" ink so that, theoretically, people could vote more than once.

KIPP cited incidents of Golkar party members voting more than once, setting up illegal polling booths, and slipping bribes into sample ballot papers.  Golkar party members in local government in some village areas threatened to evict the residents or cease infrastructural development projects if the village did not swing a Golkar victory.  In Pelawali Mamasa village, a Golkar official threatened to drag people to the police station if they did not vote for his party.

Voter turnout in one province of South Sulawesi was a surprising 109.9% -most of these votes were for Golkar.  In West Nusa Tenggara the ruling party distributed free soap with "Don't forget to vote Golkar" printed on the wrapper.  It was disclosed that the government had funneled World Bank Funds, allocated for social security programs, into the campaigns of Golkar and its satellite party PDR.

Promises of Change

One couldn't help but be swept up by the fervor of Megawati's supporters who, wearing red and waving PDI-P flags, revved the engines of their motor bikes (mufflers removed) in time with their partisans and brought the streets of Jakarta to a standstill.  These people were demanding reform.

When interviewed, her supporters -the majority of whom are comprised of the urban poor-said that they needed cheaper food prices; they wanted to be able to send their children to school; they wanted steady employment and an end to the economic crisis.  They had faith that Megawati would deliver this-regardless of her pro-IMF policies, which will place further burden of the economic recovery on the poor.

Megawati was touted by the International community as the leader who would bring stability and democracy to Indonesia so that Indonesia would once again be a safe place for foreign investment.

But as analysts started to do the math they began to realize that Megawati will have a tough road ahead of her. The people elect only 462 of the 700 seats that make up the MPR (Parliament), which elects the president.  Of the remaining seats, 38 are appointed by the military and the rest are government appointed regional and social representatives.  PDI-P has received 154 seats to the ruling Suharto-Habibie party Golkar's 120.

In addition to the main parties, the rest of the 462 MPR seats will be scattered among the remaining forty-three parties, some of them actually satellite parties, such as the PDR, funded by Golkar.  Whoever wins the presidency will do so by forming a coalition.

When it surfaced that the PDI-P was talking with General Wiranto about his possible candidacy as a vice-president people began to wonder about Megawati's commitment to true democratic reform.  The military has systematically quashed democratic opposition among students and workers in Indonesia, and among independence supporters in East Timor and West Papua and Ache.

As evidence of election fraud began to pile up, adulation over the democracy of the process started to subside.  Golkar had been up to its old ways of threats and vote buying.

By the time activists from the People's Democratic Party (PRD) were shot by the police on July 1 for demonstrating against Golkar's election fraud, the reality had set in: Pro-Reformasi activists have a long way to go to bring democracy to Indonesia.

Murky Maneuvers

It is likely that PDI-P, PKB, and PAN will form a coalition with ABRI (the military).  It is unlikely that these top three reform parties could win without ABRI as Golkar is likely to garner a lot of the votes from the MPR's 162 seats given to regional and social groups, along with votes from the pro-status quo parties, and the conservative Muslim parties who are opposed to a woman as president.

But if ABRI agrees to a coalition with the reform parties it probably will mean that General Wiranto will be vice-president.  Wiranto, who is the defense Minster and top general, recently appointed himself a deputy assistant raising speculations that he did so to free himself up for the vice-presidency.  A military source has been quoted as saying:

One of the options presented to Megawati was for her to pick Wiranto as her vice-president in exchange for the military's support for her presidential bid. And the military is prepared to support her. Admiral Widodo from the navy will be appointed as deputy armed forces chief, either this week or next week. This is to ensure that someone can take over from Wiranto if he is elected as vice-president.

After the downfall of Suharto in May of `98, Wiranto was promoted by imperialist countries as "the good general." He successfully deflected responsibility for kidnappings, tortures, disappearances, and brutal attacks on East Timorese and pro-democracy demonstrations onto lower military members.

But as the chief of the armed forces, Wiranto is responsible for the atrocities and is in no way committed to democratic reform.  On June 24 Wiranto issued a statement ordering that political parties cease demonstrating:

The campaign period which allowed political parties to mobilize masses and make shows of force in large numbers is over. The authorities will take stiff measures in line with the existing laws and regulations against groups of people from any political parties who defy the law.

This order was thought to be directed to the PRD (People's Democratic Party), which had been staging rallies to protest Golkar's election fraud.

In light of the company she keeps, Megawati is unlikely to bring an investigation of the crimes ABRI committed during the Suharto regime.  She certainly will not abolish dwifungsi ABRI, which allows the military the constitutional right to a dual function in society and effectively means they can control almost every element of Indonesian society.

According to Maizirwan, member of the newly founded Sarakat Tani Nasional (National Farmworkers Union) "I think there is no democracy in Indonesia because the military still has power through dwifungsi ABRI.  We have not gotten rid of it. While the system remains unchanged, democracy is an illusion."

Megawati has also embraced the International Monetary Fund austerity measures which have served to further plunge the majority of the Indonesian working class into poverty.  Approximately 80 million of Indonesia's 200 million people live in poverty.  Annual per capita income has dropped from $1,200 to $400 since the second half of 1997.  Further IMF involvement will mean an end to price controls on food staples like rice and even more unemployment.

Laksmana Sukardi, one of Megawati's economic aides, told Business Week that "We have to call on the Indonesian people to understand the problems and be prepared for more sacrifice."

Megawati has also stated that she thinks East Timor should remain part of Indonesia.  This calls into question the status of the referendum which was postponed a second time until August 22.  Habibie has claimed that if the Timorese voted against autonomy he will grant them independence.  But it is unknown what Megawati would do if elected.

Under a PDI-P government, the independence movements in West Papua and Ache would most likely be handled with the same brutal military repression that they have been under the Suharto New Order Regime.

But there is still a big chance that Habibie will be elected.  It's easier to win if you start with the most money and then cheat.

Protest and Repression

On July 1, a PRD demonstration was attacked by the police when they tried to call for the disqualification of Golkar on account of these campaign violations.  When the group tried to enter the yard of the KPU to stage a sit in, they were shot at, beaten, and teargassed.  Police fired no warning shots into the air before they fired into the crowd.

Seven people were shot with rubber coated bullets including Dyhta Cataurani, director of the PRD's international dept. and vocal oppositionist to the New Order Regime who was trampled in the clash.  Once she went down, security officers started to kick her in the head and shot her in the back. They would not allow her friends to put her in a car to be taken to the hospital.

Eventually, she was taken to the Indian Cultural Center across the street where she was put into an ambulance.

Thirty-six people were hospitalized with serious injuries.  Four people were arrested under the ludicrous charge of possessing bows and arrows.  Jefri Aries Linggau sustained major blows to the head and has developed a serious case of amnesia.  His recovery has been slow.

After the demonstrations, the PRD office in East Jakarta was stoned.  The perpetrators of the attack were thought to be disgruntled Golkar party supporters upset by the PRD's calls for disqualification.  PRD member Budi Susyanto told the newspaper Kompas: "The terrorists demanded that we stop our disqualification campaign against Golkar party on account of its deceit and practicing of money politics."

PRD offices in Yogyakarta have been repeatedly threatened by knife wielding thugs since the PRD began the disqualification campaign in mid-June.  One party member, Ahdyt, was attacked on the street and hospitalized with machete wounds after participating in a demo.

But severity of the attacks increased after the July 1 clash.  On the evening of the 3rd, after throwing a molotov cocktail onto the porch of the office, men with machetes entered the office to attack PRD members many of whom had been sleeping.  The thugs chased them out of the office.  One man, Endik, was wounded and taken to the hospital.

The perpetrators returned to the office and started destroying furniture and setting fire to the carpet of the office.  They fled after neighbors came to the scene.  It is speculated that the men may have been paid Golkar thugs.

These recent attacks on political oppositionists are only one of the things that indicates a lack of political freedom in Indonesia.  According to Hendri Kuok, PRD representative to the election commission KPU: "What we have now is far from ideal.  At the moment we only have U.S.-exported market democracy which facilitates U.S. investment in Indonesia.  We do not have a democracy where people can decide their own future and be genuinely involved in the decision making process.

"This election is elitist.  This election has been dominated by the bureaucracy.  This election has been violent.  People have been intimidated to vote a certain way and it has not been transparent in terms of campaigning finances."

A'an Rusdianto, PRD rep to the PPI (the government-sponsored election monitoring commission) said: "The press, the imperialists, and major Indonesian parties have made the election look like a carnival.  They want to create a democratic facade so that the election will be accepted by the Indonesian people who think that it will be the solution to our economic and political problems.  The reality is not like this. The elections have not been democratic.  Golkar has cheated.  That's why the PRD rejects the election results."


Emily Citkowski is a U.S. activist who is currently in Indonesia observing the democracy movement.

ATC 82, September-October 1999