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Last chance for respectability


20 July 2014

Last chance for respectability

Wimar Witoelar

, Jakarta | July 20 2014 | 11:47 AM

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We are proud that the majority of voters in our young democracy resisted rhetoric and outright lies to defend our convictions.

Presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto has responded to reality with disbelief and denial, and the battle of vote counting is underway. It is an odd battle because reputable polling organizations are at odds with those of doubtful professionalism, but tricks abound to compensate for weakness at the polls.

On the Prabowo side, parties of the Red and White Coalition are trying to impress the public with their collective strength. They are blurring the distinction between political party support and popularity votes. 

Prabowo’s party coalition highlights his concern for official endorsement with little regard for shared values. 

At mass gatherings the difference between Prabowo and his rival Joko “Jokowi” Widodo is striking. The first accentuates party identity with flags and banners proclaiming party support, while Jokowi’s campaigns are volunteer-driven without any signs of party affiliation. 

Just compare the mass rallies on the same day — for Jokowi at the National Monument (Monas) and for Prabowo at Bung Karno Stadium. Jokowi’s crowd was a teeming mass of humanity unmarked by group identity. Prabowo’s rally was a sea of flags, banners and slogans.

Prabowo’s refusal to accept the findings of reputable polling organizations stirs fears that he might try to use results from less reputable organizations to create confusion on the final outcome.

During his campaign, Prabowo indicated he wanted to take Indonesia back to pre-reformasi days and review many of the country’s recent democratic reforms. 

But the majority of voters have chosen Jokowi, who firmly defends democracy. 

There is a growing disconnect between independent voters and political parties. They are actually parts of the democratic framework. But at present they are often the problem rather than the solution to the country’s grave problems, from human rights and corruption to 
extremism. 

The situation is accentuated by a lack of long-term ideals in favor of instant rewards in the form of money and position.

Ostensibly, the purpose of a political party is to mobilize citizens for ideas and programs to offer to the public. As there are many options for seeking improvement, parties submit different platforms and compete in elections.

When voters make their choice of parties, the winning party gets a chance to run things for a certain time period. Those who are not entrusted with a mandate step aside from executive power and contribute through legislative and control functions.

That is the official concept. However, the practice since 1999 has been that elections are just exercises before everyone climbs onto a bandwagon, or at least tries to.

It is happening now. No matter who wins, nobody wants to be a loser. Members of the Prabowo coalition may have made commitments, but now that Prabowo is losing voter support, party professionals are deserting him in droves.

Our history is marked with defense of democracy. Now in 2014, defense of democracy relies on the power of the ballot box.

The uncertainty surrounding the quick counts came about because of a lack of ethics on the part of the disappointed candidate. In the 2012 Jakarta gubernatorial election, the incumbent, Fauzi Bowo, conceded very early, exiting with dignity.

In contrast, Prabowo made it clear to a global audience via the BBC that he does not see himself as the loser. Indeed, he feels he is the winner.

How can Prabowo be so removed from reality? Some say it is his strategy to win at any cost, a strategy that evidently is key to his goal of gaining the presidency.

The scale of rejection of Prabowo makes it unlikely he can reverse the decision. 

However, we cannot be complacent about the possibility. Fortunately the huge pool of volunteers will make sure the momentum carries through to the end. 

Indonesian democracy is not out of danger. So what is there to prevent nefarious tactics from stealing the election? 

We could argue on any basis, but this is an election driven by hearts and minds. 

Farina Situmorang, a specialist in data-driven marketing, said she is not worried. She moves in Jokowi volunteer communities, and she is impressed by the deep commitment to protecting the election result. The momentum is definitely on the side of the democratic side, she said. 

Finally, let’s make a note on how to prevent acrimony in the future. Presidential candidates should get endorsements from both the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) and the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK), followed by licenses to run as legitimate candidates. There will be no debates about human rights and corruption among legitimate candidates. All aspirants to high office must be above that.

It now remains a matter of patience and determination to be on the alert until July 22, the date for the official count by the General Elections Commission (KPU). It may be resolved earlier. 

On July 22, Prabowo will have come to the final destination of the quest begun long ago to take the seat of power of this nation. He will not have achieved his dream despite 10 years of relentless campaigning using tremendous resources and unlimited means. 

Denial of reality will be sad for the man who Jokowi described as a patriot.

Prabowo used to say that losing was not an option. Now winning is not an option. He does have the option of saving his last vestiges of honor. 

Should he accept defeat gracefully, he will have done his country a service and he might be recognized as a man of honor.

The writer was a spokesman for the late Abdurrahman “Gus Dur” Wahid, president of Indonesia from 1999 to 2001.

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