On Wednesday this week, a team of 95 lawyers representing defeated presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto will head to Indonesia’s Constitutional Court as part of a last-ditch effort to nullify the results of this year’s election. It is the first hearing of an extremely ambitious legal challenge which aims to discredit at least 4.2 million votes and bring about repeat elections in allegedly fraud-ridden constituencies — an outcome so unrealistic that even Prabowo’s former campaign manager has denounced the appeal as “pointless.”
Following on from the bogus quick count extravaganza, which led to Prabowo’s original declaration of victory shortly after voting ended on July 9, the court case is the latest addition to his manifold attempts to manipulate and ultimately steal this year’s presidential contest. But for those readers who have finally succumbed to Indonesian election fatigue, you will be pleased to know that Prabowo’s Constitutional Court appeal is the very last chance for the tormented old general to overturn rival Jokowi’s victory, and it is almost certainly bound to fail. Not only do the laws of probability suggest that proving 4.2million fraudulent ballots is a lost cause, but Prabowo’s chances of launching a post-results day comeback have been further dashed by his own attorneys’ careless penmanship.
Public scrutiny of Prabowo’s finalised appeal, which was submitted to court on July 25, has revealed a shambles of a legal document — ridden with typographical errors, inconsistencies and all manner of unsubstantiated or ambiguous claims. In a section on violations in West Papua, for example, the wording of the document appears to incriminate Prabowo’s own ticket — number 1. on the ballot papers — rather than his opponent Jokowi, who stood as candidate number 2. Arguably even more unforgivable is the presence of erroneous calculations in crucial parts of the document, such as Prabowo’s own version of the final vote tally, which indicates that he won the election by 0.51 percent of votes, but the total number of votes taken into account only adds up 99.99 percent.
As a recent article on Rappler.com points out, things get even scrappier once the document moves into the realm of specific accusations. Ballot fraud is alleged to have occurred in the Timor Tengah Utara district of East Nusa Tenggara province, for example, but the names of the exact polling stations where the violations supposedly took place are not even referred to in the text. Similarly, in the controversial case of West Papua province, civil servants from nine different districts are alleged to have lobbied local tribal leaders to produce bloc votes for Jokowi, but the suspects in question are not named. Moreover, as Rappler’s correspondent rightly points out, this particular form of proxy voting — known in Indonesian as the noken system and commonly used by Papuan tribes — has been declared legal in three separate Constitutional Court rulings since 2009, a fact to which Prabowo’s legal scriptwriters appear to be oblivious.
If the Indonesian public couldn’t make much sense of the appeal, then representatives of the accused party — the General Elections Commission (KPU) which presided over the national vote tabulation — have fared little better in their own attempts to decipher the text. Commissioner Hadar Nafdis Gumay, for example, admitted to being so “confused” upon reading the appeal that at times he had to “just guess” wherein lay the allegations and exactly who was suspected of wrongdoing. “We will just prepare ourselves for whatever is needed later on,” he added, evidently unfazed by the “criminal” charges of counting fraud levelled against him and the KPU.
With the finalised appeal so fraught with error and empty claims, it is little wonder, then, that Prabowo’s camp has requested to amend the document in the run-up to the first hearing. The court has granted permission for Prabowo’s attorneys to do so, but recent reports suggest that the extra time is mainly being used to ply the document with further allegations of ballot fraud, rather than clean up existing errors.
In its original form, the appeal document alleged that irregularities took place at no less than 52,000 polling stations throughout Indonesia, including 5,800 in Jakarta alone. Prabowo’s lawyers now want to expand that number fourfold, to include further irregularities noted at 210,000 polling stations. This now means that Prabowo is alleging foul play at almost half of Indonesia’s 479,000 polling stations, a startling amendment which, if permitted by the court, would aim to discredit over 50 million votes.
It remains unclear, though, as to whether Prabowo’s counsel will be allowed to add more accusations to the original lawsuit with only days until the case goes to trial. Veri Junaidi, executive director of the Association for Elections and Democracy (Perludem), has denounced the move unequivocally. “The principle is that the lawsuit should be submitted within 3 times 24 hours since the announcement of the official vote tally by the KPU,” he is quoted as saying. “In my opinion, all of the substantial contents of the documents should be submitted within the time period. After that, they [the plaintiffs] should not add [to the] contested subject.” Ultimately, the decision will lie with the panel of nine Constitutional Court judges taking the case, who are expected to rule on the matter sometime this week.
Against this backdrop of second-rate documentation and dubious “new findings” of vote rigging that just “keep growing,” as one of Prabowo’s lawyers recently told The Jakarta Post, Prabowo himself remains confident as ever that he was robbed of an election victory and will ultimately triumph in his bid to become president — if justice is served at the Constitutional Court. Indeed, listening to Prabowo’s rhetoric since he was declared loser of this year’s contest, one cannot help but feel that something of a Messiah complex is beginning to develop alongside his longer-standing victim complex. I quote here from Prabowo’s speech to supporters who gathered outside the Constitutional Court to witness the filing of his appeal on July 25.
Brothers and sisters, we will continue our struggle! Our struggle is to rescue the Republic of Indonesia! We want real democracy! We want justice, and we are ready to declare everything to get it!… Brothers [and sisters], are you afraid or not?… can you be bought or not?… can you be bribed or not?… do you want to be ruled by foreigners or not?… do you want freedom or not?… Now I ask for [you] to return home safely… [and] believe, truthfully, that we will succeed.
Let’s be clear, it will take nothing short of a miracle for Prabowo to overturn Jokowi’s victory at the Constitutional Court. Even with all the legal assistance that money can buy — and Prabowo certainly has a lot of money — there is surely no way to prove, beyond reasonable doubt, that 4.2 million of Jokowi’s votes were simply a figment of the KPU’s imagination. In all probability, no election can be 100 percent clean, but this year’s presidential contest, especially the counting process, has been hailed by many as one of the “most transparent and accountable in Indonesian election history.”
With all due respect, Prabowo is not only flogging a dead horse at the Constitutional Court, but also putting the final nails into the coffin of his pitiful political career. Perhaps a starring role as the defendant in a long-awaited human rights tribunal would be better suited to him — this most impish remnant of Suharto-era quackery.