Security forces are bracing for the possibility of violent street protests by supporters of opposition candidate Prabowo Subianto when the National Election Commission (KPU) announces the final results of the presidential and legislative elections next Wednesday.
Fears of post-election instability have been simultaneously stoked by a separate but related terrorist threat that apparently aimed to use the protests as cover to sow violence in the capital Jakarta.
Prabowo has already said he will refuse to accept the official tally, which shows President Joko Widodo maintaining a convincing 12% lead that his rival claims, with little documentary evidence, was achieved through massive voter fraud.
Prabowo will not, however, challenge the results of the simultaneous legislative elections, where his Great Indonesia Movement Party (Gerindra) failed to beat Golkar as the second-ranked party, but still managed 11.6% of the vote – 4% more than in 2014.
A 32,000-strong force of police and military is reportedly being mobilized to safeguard the KPU’s downtown Jakarta headquarters and other sites around the capital to prevent the threatened May 22 protests from spiraling out of control.
Police say they also discovered a conspiracy by the extremist Jamaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD) network to carry out suicide bombings against a range of targets in other parts of Jakarta next week, using the demonstrations as a cover.
The plot was uncovered following a May 5 raid by the Detachment 88 counter-terrorism unit in the eastern Jakarta suburb of Bekasi, which left two militants dead, one of whom died in a self-detonated bomb blast.
Two other militants, including a bomb-maker, were arrested, along with quantities of acetone peroxide and other pre-cursor chemicals used in the making of explosive devices that were employed in last year’s Surabaya church attacks. The terror group is not known to be aligned with either political camp.
Meanwhile, black propagandists on social media have been seeking to undermine the credibility of the KPU, with Gaja Mada University’s Faculty of Social and Political Sciences listing 4,400 tweets expressing distrust with the election commission.
Half of the tweets have come from so-called bot accounts run by a comPuter program which allows the creator to hide behind anonymity – a clear indication of a calculated effort to sow discord in a country addicted to social media.
Meanwhile Political Coordinating Minister Wiranto has formed a legal team to determine whether statements calling for a popular uprising from opposition figures such as National Mandate Party (PAN) founder Amien Rais, exiled Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) leader Rizieq Shihab and retired army general Kivlan Zen legally represent hate speech.
Police have already arrested maverick ex-labor leader Eggi Sudjana, a PAN member, over alleged treasonous remarks he made outside Prabowo’s home on election day as supporters gathered to protest the quick count results that favored Widodo.
Although PAN leader Zulkifli Hasan now appears to be deserting him, Rais is a more difficult target, with legal experts homing in on the constitutional implications of his call for a “people’s power” revolution if the election goes against Prabowo.
Prabowo has used the phrase himself, but he denies he is inciting unrest and says if his disparate force of Muslim conservatives, political allies, labor activists and aging military officers take to the streets next week it will be a spontaneous, not orchestrated, action.
But as the days tick down, it has become increasing difficult for Prabowo to justify his complaint of “structured, systematic and massive” electoral fraud, ranging from routine campaign violations to voter list irregularities and Widodo’s blatant use of the incumbency to secure support.
As the official vote count nears the 90% mark, the KPU is putting a somewhat different complexion on the polarization that was initially apparent in the quick count following the April 17 presidential election.
The latest tally now shows Prabowo winning only 13 of the 34 provinces, three less than originally reported. Although he dominates in Sumatra, leading in six of the island’s 10 provinces, he is behind in all but one province in Kalimantan and four of the six provinces in neighboring Sulawesi.
The worrying geographically-defined religious divide remains obvious, however, in some of the startling margins of victory for both candidates in provinces like North Sulawesi, Bali, Central Java , East Nusa Tenggara and Papua (Widodo) and Aceh, West Sumatra, Banten and even West Java (Prabowo).
How or whether Widodo will go about resolving those socio-political differences will be closely watched in the early days of his second term, given his reluctance so far to draw a firm line against the fundamentalist Islamic lobby aligned against him.
As in the election, where support from the mass Muslim organization Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) was crucial to his commanding 77% and 67% wins in populous Central and East Java respectively, the president appears to be increasingly relying on the group to provide him with political cover.
That is already leading to speculation that NU, until now a largely moderating force in Islamic politics, will have a major influence on future social policies through its National Awakening Party (PKB), one of Widodo’s six coalition partners.
PKB won about 9.3% of the national vote, much improved on 2014, picking up the lion’s share of its votes in areas of the strongest NU influence – Sumatra’s Lampung province, home of five million Javanese trans-migrants, Central and East Java, Jogjakarta and South Kalimantan.
That was better than all the four Muslim-oriented parties, although the opposition sharia-based Justice and Prosperity Party (PKS) recorded a historically high 7.2% on the back of strong support in Jakarta, West Java and South and North Sumatra.
NU, whose membership is variously put at 45-60 million, fell in behind Widodo after he agreed to abandon his first choice, former Constitution Court chief justice Mahfud MD, and select conservative 74-year-old NU cleric Ma’ruf Amin as his running mate last August.
Widodo’s first Cabinet had six NU-affiliated ministers, including three from PKB, but that number could well increase in his second-term administration. One thing is clear: this time the religious affairs portfolio will go to a PKB appointee, significant for the direction Islam is headed in the country.
The United Development Party (PPP), which appears to have barely made the 4% threshold for parliamentary representation, has held the post for the past five years, but current minister Lukman Hakim Saifuddin is under a corruption cloud and may well be sacked in a limited Cabinet reshuffle next month.
While the NU has a reputation for moderation and tolerance, fostered by its legendary pluralist leader, the late president Abdurrahman Wahid, its leadership has come under increasing pressure in recent years from conservative elements.
Given the discord that has resulted from NU moving into a closer alliance with PKB and the Widodo camp, analysts caution that the organization may not always be relied on to follow the same secular course, particularly with fundamentalists vying for control over the Islamic grassroots.