Indonesians organize to protect presidential vote

The Guardian

Sun, Jul 20, 2014 - Page 6

Indonesians have mobilized in their thousands to ensure the vote counting process in the presidential election is free and fair prior to the official announcement of the winner, expected on Tuesday.

Former Indonesian Army general Prabowo Subianto and Jakarta Governor Joko “Jokowi” Widodo both drew on different unofficial quick counts to declare they had won the July 9 election.

Emotions have run high during the ballot, the tightest and most divisive in Indonesia’s short democratic history, and the close contest has energized and mobilized voters.

Dhyta Caturani, a project officer at a local non-governmental organization in Jakarta, had never voted before, but this week was losing sleep to keep a watchful eye on the count.

“I’ve been staying up until two in the morning at the kecamatan [sub-district office] to watch the count and then going into the office in the morning,” she said.

In a country run by an elite pack and where parliamentarians are frequently embroiled in corruption scandals, Jokowi, an outsider with a clean reputation, has inspired an army of volunteers.

Caturani said several of her friends had taken leave to get behind the Jokowi campaign, and then to guard the vote.

From the village level, vote counts are subsequently verified at the sub-district, regional and provincial levels before they are sent to the national elections body. The complicated and bureaucratic process has raised fears vote tallies could be tampered with at several stages.

After quitting his job six months ago to become more deeply involved with the Jokowi volunteers, Anton Pradjasto has been monitoring the vote count in his area at each level.

“I just want to give a sense that we are there and we are watching,” he said. “We are sure Jokowi is the winner and we don’t want to be cheated.”

More than any election in the past, supporters on both sides have taken a proactive role in election monitoring.

On election day, voters paid particular attention to the C1 form, a document that shows the final tabulation of votes at individual polling booths.

Many voters waited at their local booths for hours so they could take photos of the forms and post them on social networks.

The newly created phone application iWitness, one of several election-related social media phenomena to spring up this year, allows voters to upload the forms and crosscheck the results at the national level so there is evidence of doctoring if the numbers do not match.

Describing as partisan the quick counts that point in favor of his opponent, Prabowo has repeatedly urged Indonesians to wait for the official announcement on Tuesday and maintained that he is in the lead.

“All of the real counts show I’m leading,” he told the BBC in an interview two days after the election.