Mid-count surge in votes for Indonesian president’s son’s party raises fraud suspicions

Nazarudin Latif and Arie Firdaus
Mid-count surge in votes for Indonesian president’s son’s party raises fraud suspicions Vice presidential candidate Gibran Rakabuming Raka (left), the eldest son of Indonesian President Joko Widodo; his younger brother, Kaesang Pangarep (right), the chairman of the Indonesian Solidarity Party (PSI); and Didit Hediprasetyo (center), a fashion designer and the only son of Indonesian Defense Minister and presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto attend a Lunar New Year celebration event in Jakarta, Feb. 11, 2024.
[Yasuyoshi Chiba/AFP]

A small party led by a son of Indonesia’s outgoing president saw an extraordinary rise in its votes over the weekend during the official ballot count in last month’s election, raising the clamor for a parliamentary inquiry into alleged electoral fraud. 

Poll experts voiced suspicions that the vote share of the Indonesian Solidarity Party (PSI) may have been bumped up so it could enter parliament, because votes in its favor rose suddenly to around 3.13% over the weekend from the 2.6-2.8% it had hovered around on Friday and the days previously.

Besides, experts noted that the election commission’s numbers for PSI were higher than the polling stations’ tallies as well as the quick counts’ forecasts. And while within the margin of error for the usually reliable quick counts, the discrepancy was still unusual, they said.

Muhammad  Romahurmuziy, a politician from the United Development Party, said he suspected there had been attempts in some districts to inflate the votes for PSI, which is led by Kaesang Pangarep, the youngest son of President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo.

“The vote inflation for PSI was revealed in many cases, not at the polling station level, but allegedly at the district-level,” he told reporters on Monday. 

He meant that at the district level votes are manually counted and therefore tallies are more reliable than the data on the commission website, which could be wrong due to inputting and other errors.

Romahurmuziy also alleged that ballots that were disqualified were wrongfully added to PSI’s account.

“Every shift of invalid votes to PSI clearly harmed the performance of all other political parties in the election,” he said.

He cited a case in West Java, where PSI’s votes rose from one to 21 at a polling station in Banjaran Wetan village. He also referred to a tweet that revealed that PSI’s votes jumped from zero to 69 in a Central Java village, Kroyo, according to the online system.

The PSI is seen as a vehicle for 29-year-old Kaesang to follow Jokowi, who is stepping down in October after his second and final term, as the constitution bars him from running for a third one.

Kaesang Pangarep (center), chairman of the Indonesian Solidarity Party (PSI) and the youngest son of Indonesia's President Joko Widodo, speaks during a campaign event supporting then-presidential candidate, Prabowo Subianto, in Denpasar, Indonesia, Feb. 5, 2024. [Sonny Tumbelaka/AFP]

Already, Jokowi’s eldest son, Gibran Rakabuming Raka, who ran for vice president with Defense Minister Prabowo Subianto, will be entrenched in the system after the duo won the Feb. 14 presidential race by a wide margin, according to unofficial counts.

It was almost as if Jokowi was trying to prove right his detractors who alleged he was trying to build a political dynasty. Critics say Jokowi has been using his influence to plant his relatives in the political system and ensure the continuity of his power. 

Jokowi has denied having any such intentions. 

That wasn’t the only allegation that marred last month’s election, which two watchdog groups recently called the worst since the country’s democratic transition in 1998. 

Abuse of state machinery for electoral purposes, favoritism, lack of transparency in campaign financing and outright fraud were the top accusations.

Prabowo’s defeated rivals, former Jakarta Gov. Anies Baswedan and former Central Java Gov. Ganjar Pranowo, have challenged the results and said they would cooperate for a parliamentary inquiry.

The alleged vote inflation in favor of PSI should be part of this proposed inquiry unless corrective action is taken, said United Development Party politician Romahurmuziy.

Election commission chair Hasyim Asyari denied allegations of vote inflation for PSI. 

“If you pay attention to the national recapitulation data, we check each record, note the objections and special incidents, and trace them to the original source: [what is called] the C form, from the polling station,” he said.

“We use the C form as the reference if there is any discrepancy,” he told reporters, referring to an automatic check performed by the system.

Party spokesman Sigit Widodo said the fluctuation of vote percentages was normal while the counting was still ongoing.

“PSI’s vote share will automatically rise when votes from areas with many voters are entered,” he said on social media platform X.

“It’s better to wait for the official results from the General Election Commission.”

‘Explosion’ in PSI’s vote share

Arya Fernandes, a researcher at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), said PSI received 2.67% of the votes in the quick count by his think-tank. Official numbers show PSI’s vote share higher at 3.13% at this stage of counting when about 66% of votes at all polling stations have been tallied.

“The 0.46% difference is still within the margin of error. The situation would be different if the difference was more than 1%,” Arya told BenarNews.

Other analysts said on Twitter and to local media that the “explosion” in PSI’s vote share in just a couple of days rang alarm bells for them.

PSI politicians have expressed confidence that the party will pass the threshold of needing to have earned 4% of the national votes to enter parliament, despite quick counts by pollsters showing it is not expected to gain more than 3%.

PSI garnered 1.89% of the national vote in the 2019 election, which was its debut on the Indonesian political scene. That was, of course, not enough to pass the parliamentary threshold of 4% and secure any seats in the national parliament.

Court rules threshold unconstitutional

The threshold is a regulation that aims to limit the number of parties in the legislature and to ensure political stability. It was first introduced in the 2009 election and has been maintained in subsequent elections, albeit at different percentages. Parties that fail to meet the threshold are not eligible to get any seats in the House of Representatives.

On Thursday, however,  the Constitutional Court ruled that the parliamentary threshold was unconstitutional, saying it violated the principles of popular sovereignty and electoral justice. Critics say it has marginalized smaller parties and reduced voter choice.

The court’s ruling came in a case filed by Perludem, an election watchdog group.

The court ordered the lawmakers to revise the threshold and its calculation method before the 2029 election because it was essential to minimize the number of wasted votes.

Another major Constitutional Court ruling was handed down last October that was highly controversial and widely seen as enabling Jokowi’s other son, Gibran, to contest for vice president.

That ruling by the court, then led by Jokowi’s brother-in-law, Anwar Usman, provoked accusations of nepotism and political manipulation.

Jokowi was on Monday asked about the latest fracas over PSI’s vote share, while he was departing for Australia to attend a regional summit.

“Ask the party,” he told reporters at Jakarta’s Halim Perdanakusuma airport.

“Ask the General Election Commission.”


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