JAKARTA: As Indonesia heads to the polls on Wednesday (Apr 17), voting irregularities take centre stage in a rerun of the battle between presidential candidates Joko Widodo and Prabowo Subianto. Such claims, however, have been rejected by the Election Commission (KPU).
Prabowo's campaign media chief Hashim Djokohadikusumo reiterated allegations that 17.5 million names on the electoral roll shared just three birth dates - Jan 1, Jul 1 and Dec 31.
Using a chart to illustrate his point, Mr Djokohadikusumo said such a coincidence was unusual. On average, each date in a year should have around 500,000 voters if the birth dates of the 192 million voters in Indonesia are spread out randomly.
“We are not pointing the blame at (incumbent Mr Widodo’s camp), that has not been ascertained. But if Prabowo eventually wins, let’s hope the result will not be questioned,” he said on Sunday.
These claims of "ghost voters" have been raised by Prabowo’s camp over the last four months, as survey results indicated that his challenger Mr Widodo, popularly known as Jokowi, has a strong lead.
In the last presidential election in 2014, Prabowo had alleged widespread voter fraud and refused to concede when Jokowi was declared the winner. He challenged the result, but the Constitutional Court eventually ruled against him and upheld Jokowi's victory.
BIRTH DATES WERE ALLOCATED TO THOSE WHO FORGOT: KPU
To address these recent claims, the KPU conducted an investigation based on random sampling and concluded that the allegation of 17.5 million phantom voters on the electoral roll was false.
Its chief Arief Budiman told a media briefing on Monday that the anomaly surrounding the birth dates were due to the government’s practice of assigning the said dates to those who have forgotten their dates of birth.
Between 1970 and 2004, those who did not remember their birth dates were recorded as being born on Dec 31, while after 2004, they were recorded as being born on Jul 1, he explained.
“All data has been followed up and we have met with the representatives from both presidential candidates. We have explained this to them and resolved the issue,” Mr Budiman said.
Meanwhile, Indonesian political analyst Kevin O’Rourke said problems with the voters’ list are legitimate but not new, and the likelihood of it impacting the election results is small.
“The list has always been lousy and it hasn’t been a problem in the past. It’s not something that is going to severely affect the election,” he said at a Jakarta Foreign Correpondents Club event.
Casting multiple votes is also an unlikely event, Mr O’Rourke said.
“Prabowo is saying that the election could be susceptible to manipulation where people get multiple attempts to vote, but in practice that is not likely to happen. There are a lot of other controls and mechanisms and independent monitors,” he added.
INDELIBLE INK, CHECKS TO ENSURE LEGITIMATE VOTES
One of the ways to ensure that the voters only cast their votes once is the use of indelible ink on polling day.
KPU’s Mr Budiman said voters are required to dip their thumbs into the ink after voting.
The voters’ identity will be checked against the electoral roll at all polling stations, he added.
“If names of deceased people or those ineligible to vote are still on the voters’ list, we will mark each one of them to prevent any foul play,” he added.
The voting period is from 7am to 1pm (local time), and Mr Budiman promised that those who are lining up and registering at 1pm will be allowed to exercise their voting rights.
POSSIBILITY OF PROTESTS
Prabowo’s camp has earlier threatened a street protest over the irregularities on the voters’ list.
Mr Amien Rais, a politician from the National Mandate Party - which is part of the Prabowo coalition - encouraged the people to hit the streets and protest at the National Monument if said irregularities were not addressed.
During a government briefing on Monday, Coordinating Minister of Politics, Law and Security, Wiranto, who goes by a single name, urged supporters to refrain from any celebrations or demonstrations on the streets “due to the possibility of chaos”.
“This violates the law, which clearly states that mass mobilisation in public areas should not disturb public order, violate the freedom of others … and not impact the unity of the nation,” he said.
Mr Wiranto added that during polling day, security personnel will be deployed across the country to ensure the safety of the voters.
“We also ask all political parties, contestants and supporters to respect the law and regulations. Let us look forward to a joyful election day, where more than 190 million members of public are allowed to exercise their rights to vote.”
Mr O’Rouke cautioned that there is a possibility of protests on the streets if Jokowi wins by a margin of less than five per cent.
“It is a shame. We have been through five democratic elections (in Indonesia) and we’re still at a point where there’s a need for the incumbent to win by a large margin in order to be sure that there will be no disruptive protest on the streets,” he said.