Intimidation, vote-buying reported in Jakarta election runoff
thejakartapost.com, — Voters are expected to head to the polls on Wednesday in the second round of the gubernatorial election amid heightened sectarian tension that has been simmering since campaigning started late last year.
Analysts have predicted voter turnout will likely be much higher than the 77.1 percent reported by the Jakarta General Elections Commission (KPU Jakarta) in the first round of the election in February.
With pollsters showing that incumbent Jakarta Governor Basuki “Ahok” Thahaja Purnama and former culture and education minister Anies Baswedan are in a statistical dead heat, supporters from both candidates are expected to show up in droves at polling stations, hoping to deliver a win for their preferred ticket.
The final result from the first round of the election on Feb. 15 showed that Ahok got 42.91 percent of the vote, while Anies received 40.05 percent. Third candidate Agus Harimurti Yudhoyono got 17.05 percent of the vote.
Anies appeared to have gained momentum and seemed likely to catch up with Ahok over the last few weeks. Four out of five surveys released last week showed Anies was in the lead, albeit by a small margin.
With a message tailored to woo voters from Muslim groups, Anies attracted voters who in the first round of the election voted for Agus, who also reached out to Muslim voters.
Those who support Ahok, meanwhile, have diverse religious and ethnic backgrounds as well as social status, mostly the middle-income segment, said Sirajuddin Abbas, program director of the Jakartabased pollster, Sjaiful Mujani Research and Consulting (SMRC).
“In terms of social class, Ahok [and his running mate Djarot Sjaiful Hidayat] have won support from people with at least a senior high school diploma with an income above the UMR [regional minimum wage],” Sirajuddin told The Jakarta Post. Jakarta’s minimum wage is Rp 3.35 million (US$251.8) per month.
Ahok’s reputation has taken a hit on account of policies deemed as not pro-people, such as evictions and the reclamation projects, which activists said benefitted only the business community.
Anies and his running mate Sandiaga Uno have attacked Ahok by capitalizing on the poor’s frustration over Ahok’s eviction policy, with efforts including the former minister touring areas targeted by Ahok’s eviction policy.
Other than the eviction issue, sectarianism has also taken center stage in the election, especially after Ahok was filmed making a statement that some Muslim organizations deemed as blasphemous.
Following protests from conservative Muslim groups, prosecutors charged Ahok with blasphemy and he is standing trial for allegedly violating articles 156 and 156a of the Criminal Code (KUHP) on blasphemy, which carry a maximum prison sentence of four and five years.
The attacks on Ahok, who is a Christian of Chinese descent, intensified as the city headed toward the first round of election in February, with members of conservative Muslim groups attacking his supporters.
In recent weeks, banners popped up in dozens of mosques in Jakarta, calling for Muslims not to facilitate the proper burial of fellow Muslims who supported Ahok in the election.
The campaign against Ahok reached a new height with conservative Muslim groups planning to deploy their members to descend on polling stations on election day in a movement called Tamasya Al-Maidah (Al-Maidah Tour), prompting the National Police to dispatch more than 60,000 personnel to secure voting.
On Tuesday, Anies’ camp called on his supporters to refrain from resorting to violence and urged them not to submit to provocation or intimidation.
Spokesperson for Anies camp, former Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) commissioner Bambang Widjojanto, called on Anies’ supporters to pray for a victory for their candidate, especially amid rumors of vote-buying.
Bambang also said Anies’ supporters should keep a close eye on polling stations in their neighborhoods and move to file a report and collect evidence if they suspected foul play had taken place.
“Collect evidence before you take these violators to the law enforcement agencies” he said on Wednesday.
Ahok’s campaign team said it expected a fair and peaceful election despite plans from the Al Maidah Tour and suspicions that KPU Jakarta would not remain neutral.
Hasto Kristiyanto, secretarygeneral of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), said his camp would rely on the police to safeguard voting.
“We fully support what has been done by the authorities to safeguard the election process and prevent any form of intimidation. Therefore, we hope residents can exercise their voting rights,” Hasto said.
Meanwhile, Muhammad Qodari, executive director of Jakarta pollster Indo Barometer, said the election could foretell the country’s future.
“[If things go wrong] what happens in Jakarta can serve as an ugly precedent for the simultaneous regional elections in 2018 and the presidential election in 2019,” he said.
Polling day in the fierce and noisy Jakarta gubernatorial election has arrived and the Election Supervisory Agency (Bawaslu) has warned voters and election organizers to be very careful about potential violations, given the growing number of reports of smear campaigns and vote-buying attempts.
Since last week, Bawaslu has received 41 reports of violations, nine of which are still under investigation by the election integrated law enforcement center (Sentra Gakkumdu). The violations related to both incumbent candidate pair Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama-Djarot Syaiful Hidayat and the rival Anies Baswedan-Sandiaga Uno ticket.
Bawaslu commissioner Fritz Edward Siregar claimed a Bawaslu team caught red-handed several groups of people attempting to distribute sembako (staple foods), which the agency believed was part of efforts to woo voters to vote for a certain ticket.
But the agency has indicated violations could still be rampant on voting day, as a result of Polling Station Working Committees (KPPS) officials’ lack of professionalism and partisanship, as well as poorly informed voters. Election watchdogs are vigilant over potential vote-buying in the form of bribery prior to voting, locally known as serangan fajar, or dawn attacks.
Intimidation by certain groups could also occur, he added. “If voters feel intimidated, feel free to report to Bawaslu or the police immediately,” he added.
Information regarding the C6 form, which sets out where and when a voter should vote, for example, can be manipulated to bar voters from exercising their voting rights. “The forms are not a requirement for a person to be able to vote. As long as the voters are listed on the DPT [final voter list], they only need to show their IDs to the KPPS,” Fritz said.
In the first round, KPPS officials in many polling stations did not allow voters to vote because they did not bring their C6 forms, while voters complained they did not receive the forms beforehand.
The 2016 Regional Election Law stipulates that election violations carry between 12 and 72 months in prison.
Indonesia Corruption Watch researcher Donal Fariz said many people still regard the sembako as sedekah (alms-giving). “Votebuying is not sedekah, it’s a crime. People should understand that they can be sanctioned [for accepting bribes],” he said.
The General Elections Commission (KPU), meanwhile, has warned all KPPS officials to fully understand the voting mechanism. “For example, it is only those who come after 1 p.m. that are not allowed to vote. This is crucial because it can cause misunderstandings,” KPU commissioner Ilham Saputra said.
Association for Elections and Democracy (Perludem) director Titi Anggraini said members of civil society groups would help monitor the voting. “The organizers have limitations in terms of human resources and information, thus [independent observers] can help monitor and report violations. We’ll also continue monitoring after voting finishes,” Titi said.
Around 13,034 polling stations will operate across the city for the runoff election, 11 more than the first round given the increase in the number of voters according to the latest DPT.
Both camps have reported violations.
The Anies-Sandiaga camp described the vote-buying phenomenon as “staple food politicization,” requesting Bawaslu take firm measures.
“We share a similar opinion with [Ahok’s camp] that vote buying could severely damage our democracy,” Yupen Hadi from Anies-Sandiaga team said.
The team claimed they had found a large number of illegal voters in the first round and warned that similar instances could reoccur.
The Ahok-Djarot camp have said they will deploy 78,000 witnesses to all polling stations in a bid to prevent fraud and intimidation.
Team spokesman I Gusti Putu Artha said some would observe the balloting process inside the stations while others would stand by outside.
The witnesses, who are members of political parties backing Ahok-Djarot, will be facilitated by 20 hotline numbers and two mobile applications called “Mata Saksi” and “Ninja Badja” to report their findings.