Indonesia announces election winners amid protests and fraud allegations

A polling station in north Jakarta during the 2024 election

A polling station in north Jakarta during the 2024 election. Photo by Jeromi Mikhael / Wikimedia Commons. CC0 1.0 DEED

On March 20, Indonesia’s General Election Commission (KPU) announced the winners of the February 14 election amid continuing accusations of fraud and interference allegedly committed by the incumbent government.

KPU declared Defense Minister Prabowo Subianto as the winner in the presidential race after garnering 96.2 million votes or 58.6 percent of total votes cast. He defeated former Jakarta Governor Anies Baswedan and former Central Java Governor Ganjar Pranowo.

Anies and Ganjar said incumbent President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo unfairly used state resources to benefit the candidacy of Prabowo, whose vice presidential candidate is Gibran Rakabuming Raka, the president’s eldest son. Jokowi insisted that officials can endorse candidates as long as government funds are not utilized during the campaign period.

Anies has already filed a petition with the Constitutional Court questioning the interventions made by the Jokowi government during the election process. He said this to the media:

When we are talking about free and fair elections this also means that the state takes a neutral position toward any contestants and organises the election in a neutral way. That has been absent. We want to make sure that irregularities don't go unchecked.

Meanwhile, Hasto Kristiyanto, secretary of the party who fielded Ganjar told Reuters about the plan to seek a parliamentary inquiry about the unethical actions allegedly made by officials.

We found there was abuse of power, ranging from legal aspects to the use of state facilities. If we did not do this comprehensive correction, then what's the point of having an election in the future?

Even some civil society groups have monitored irregularities during the campaign period. Indonesia Corruption Watch and human rights group KontraS have issued a joint statement describing the 2024 elections as the worst since the ouster of Suharto in 1998. Suharto was Indonesia’s leader for three decades, and the period after his downfall has been called the Reform Era. Indonesia Corruption Watch and KontraS have found 310 cases of alleged fraud involving election organizers, government officials, civil servants and candidates.

We think it is reasonable for the public to question the election results, based on the process that is suspected to be fraudulent and problematic.

The Asian Network for Free Elections also recorded “the mobilization and misuse of state resources to sway voter preferences” and cited it as an example of “declining democratic norms” in the country.

Aside from accusations that Jokowi led the distribution of aid in vote-rich districts, local officials were allegedly threatened with corruption investigations if they did not support the Prabowo and Gibran tandem.

A few days before the announcement of the official election results, protests were organized denouncing Jokowi and the alleged illegal campaigning done by officials.

In an interview with Benar News, youth activist Fawwaz Ihza Mahenda summed up the message of the protest.

The president’s [election] interference and misuse of social aid for political gain represent the tip of the iceberg in terms of institutional quality neglect during Indonesia’s current development process.

Hafid Abbas, a professor at the State University of Jakarta, added that the protest has the support of academics.

So those who take to the streets are not only students but also their professors, the lecturers, and the scientists. Because this situation is a matter of life and the destruction of our nation. If we do not join forces, Indonesia cannot resist these deviations of democracy that have occurred so far.

Scholars Sana Jaffrey and Eve Warburton noted the extraordinary interventions made by officials during the election campaign:

Partisan behaviour of state officials is observed with some regularity in Indonesian elections. But the centralised nature of intervention in 2024, its scale and the brazenness with which it was done, is unprecedented in Indonesia’s brief democratic history.

Responding to the protests and petitions against election fraud, Member of Parliament Kamrussamad, who is aligned with the election winners, argued that the people need to have a working government today.

We too, have heard various aspirations on the ground. One of the most urgent aspirations from the people is unemployment or job creation.

It is not the right of inquiry that they need, it is the right of people such as public transportation drivers. And because of that, I want to remind you to not let the response of those who are not ready to lose be the worst response in the history of elections in the reformed era.

When asked about the allegations of fraud, Jokowi said this to the media:

Don’t scream fraud. We have mechanisms to solve the fraud. If you have evidence, take it to the Election Supervisory Agency, if you have evidence, challenge it to the Constitutional Court.

Prabowo has to wait until October before he assumes power. In the meantime, the court petition and the parliamentary inquiry about the alleged election irregularities could trigger more protests especially if evidence of fraud is presented to the public.

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