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Indonesia Probes Pre-Marked Ballots Found in Malaysian Warehouses

Rina Chadijah
Jakarta
2019-04-11
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Election officials check ballots before distributing them to the polling stations in the Tanah Abang Youth Center in Jakarta, April 10, 2019.
Election officials check ballots before distributing them to the polling stations in the Tanah Abang Youth Center in Jakarta, April 10, 2019.
Afriadi Hikmal/BenarNews

Indonesian elections supervisors on Thursday said bags with ballots pre-marked in favor of incumbent leader Joko “Jokowi” Widodo were discovered in two Malaysian warehouses just days before Indonesia’s presidential and legislative polls on April 17.

Officials said 40,000 to 50,000 ballots were found in the warehouses in Malaysia, where 1 million expatriate Indonesians are eligible to vote on Sunday ahead of the general election.

Yaza Azzahara Ulyana, who heads the Indonesian Election Supervisory Committee (Bawaslu) office in Kuala Lumpur, said she and a colleague went to a building in Selangor state after being tipped off by a campaign volunteer for opposition presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto.

“The place is a warehouse that has been filled with ballots in about 100 diplomatic bags, 10 black plastic bags, and five white gunny sacks labeled Malaysia Post,” she said in a statement.

Yaza said she was later informed that 158 bags of marked ballots were found in a second warehouse in Selangor.

Yaza confirmed that ballots had been marked for incumbent President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo and for legislative candidates from the National Democratic Party (Nasdem), a member of the ruling coalition. Officials did not say if all of the ballots had been marked for Jokowi or the party.

A video circulating online showed Malaysian police inspecting the bags while a man commented that the ballots had been marked for Jokowi and his running mate, Ma’ruf Amin.

Prabowo supporters voiced concern about possible fraud ahead of the presidential and parliamentary elections. Jokowi, who defeated Prabowo in 2014, called for an investigation.

“If it’s true and it’s a violation, just report it to the Bawaslu. The mechanism is clear,” Jokowi told reporters.

Nasdem, led by media mogul Surya Paloh, called for a probe, as well.

“Nasdem urges Bawaslu and the Indonesian National Police to thoroughly investigate this case to determine whether this is a fact or a political ploy to delegitimize the election,” it said in a statement.

Fritz Edward Siregar, a member of the election supervisory committee, said voting by expats in Malaysia should be postponed pending an investigation.

“We urge the General Election Commission (KPU) to conduct a performance evaluation. It is proven that the PPLN (overseas electoral officials) have not carried out their job properly,” Fritz told reporters.

KPU commissioner Ilham Saputra said it was investigating and considering the proposal to postpone the vote, but he did not elaborate.

Opposition concerns

Opposition members have accused the Jokowi camp of mobilizing civil servants and employees of state enterprises to support the president’s reelection bid, alleging that staff members had been threatened with punishment if they refused.

In addition, KPU has denied accusations that its computer system had been rigged in favor of Jokowi.

Prabowo campaign spokesman Dahnil Anzar Simanjuntak questioned whether Indonesian Ambassador to Malaysia Rusdi Kirana was involved in the marked ballots, and urged Jokowi to sack him.

Rusdi’s son, Devin Kirana is a Nasdem candidate for parliament.

“The Indonesian ambassador in Malaysia should be held to account related to the cast-ballot incident, even more so that the ballots have been cast in favor of his son and presidential candidate 01,” Dahnil in a Twitter post, referring to Jokowi’s designation on the ballot.

Previously, the Prabowo campaign had alleged that 17.5 million voters were registered under the same three birth dates, calling that statistically impossible. Campaign spokesman Hasjim Djojohadikusumo, a businessman and Prabowo’s brother, has threatened to take legal action unless the issue was addressed.

KPU commissioner Viryan Aziz explained that the three dates were used to register Indonesians who did not know when they were born.

Trial of ex-Prabowo volunteer

Meanwhile, a man identified by police as a former campaign volunteer for Prabowo is standing trial for allegedly spreading a rumor about 70 million pre-marked ballots. The rumored ballots would represent more than one-third of the 194 million Indonesians who are registered to vote, according to figures from the electoral commission.

Bagus Bawana Putra was arrested in January after reports circulated on social media that seven containers stuffed with ballots marked for Jokowi had been found at Jakarta’s Tanjung Priok port. He is charged with spreading false information to cause public unease and could face up to 10 years in prison, if convicted.

Bagus has told the court he had been framed and claimed that he received the information from a senior government official whom he did not name.

Prabowo campaign officials said Bagus was not part of their team nor was he registered with the election commission.

Ferry Mursyidan Baldan, a member of the Prabowo campaign, called on volunteers and Indonesian citizens abroad to monitor the vote to prevent fraud.

“Events in Malaysia have provided an impetus for volunteers across the world to guard the electoral process. It is very important to protect the reputation of our country,” he said.

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