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[Joint Statement] Indonesia: 2024 general elections mired in abuse of power, international community must help monitor and secure fairness

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(Bangkok/Jakarta, 13 February 2024)—Dubbed as the world’s ‘biggest democracy,’ Indonesia is set to hold its general elections on 14 February 2024. Indonesian civil society organisations, however, are concerned whether their beloved country is truly deserving of such a title given the problems surrounding the upcoming elections, including issues of nepotism, abuse of power, and electoral law violations.

Indonesia’s 204 million registered voters are expected to participate in the ‘world’s biggest and most technically complex one-day election’ to select a new president and vice president; parliament; senate and lawmakers at national and local levels

There are three candidates vying for presidency: Anies Baswedan, Ganjar Pranowo, and Prabowo Subianto. The latter is running in tandem with Gibran Rakabuming Raka, the son of incumbent president Joko ‘Jokowi’ Widodo.

2024 marks Prabowo’s third presidential bid, having lost to Jokowi twice. This time, Jokowi is campaigning for Prabowo, eyeing him as a successor despite the former general’s notorious human rights record including his alleged involvement in the enforced disappearance of 13 reform activists between 1997 and 1998. In addition, during Prabowo’s stint as Commander General of the Special Forces Command and Commander of the Army Strategic Reserve Command, there were allegations of human rights abuses in Timor Leste. All these led to his discharge from the army. 

A week before the elections, the Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA) and Asia Democracy Network (ADN) held a briefing with electoral experts who then stressed that although the Indonesian elections may seem smooth on the outside, many hidden issues need urgent attention.


Jokowi’s abuse of power to endorse son

In Indonesia, presidential and vice presidential aspirants must be at least 40 years old. However, in October 2023, the Constitutional Court ruled to allow the candidacy of those under 40 as long as they ‘have experience as elected officials.’ This paved the way for Gibran’s—Jokowi’s son and Prabowo’s running mate—vice-presidential bid.

Electoral experts noted how Jokowi is using his presidential powers for nepotism, blatantly politicising the judiciary by influencing the Constitutional Court to secure his son’s candidacy.

Gibran currently serves as the mayor of Solo, a position his father once held. Critics point out how Gibran’s mayoral experience does not qualify him for the country’s second highest elected position.

Electoral experts also emphasised how Jokowi has abused the Social Assistance Program for his son’s campaign, thereby violating electoral laws. According to the experts, the Social Assistance budget has been increased to approximately 500 Trillion Rupiah (USD 32 Billion) during the election season, making it twice as large than the budget during the COVID-19 pandemic. Recipients are then told that ‘the assistance came directly from the president, that Gibran is the president’s son, therefore they should know who to vote for.’


The international community must keep watch

FORUM-ASIA and ADN are calling on the international community to closely observe the 2024 general elections as the future of Indonesia’s democracy is at risk.

Electoral experts stressed the importance of outside observers in Indonesia’s election process as the president has power over bodies that are meant to safeguard the election’s integrity including the General Election Supervisory Agency, General Elections Commissions, the police, and armed forces. 

The experts further warned of potential fraud and possible riots in the aftermath of the elections. It is expected that the president has placed people within the police to secure the victory of a certain candidate, which is why outside observers need to help in calling out practices that violate democratic principles. Likewise, the international community can help protect the Indonesian people’s right to a fair, free, and peaceful election. 

Nearly half of Indonesian voters are young, mostly belonging to the Gen Z and millennial brackets. In hopes of swaying the public to vote more responsibly, electoral experts are calling on universities to help raise awareness on the ethical issues and electoral law violations happening in Indonesia.

The experts noted that since the elites have normalised political dynasties, voters need to be politically literate in order to counter such false narratives.

For media inquiries, please contact:

Communication and Media Programme, FORUM-ASIA, [email protected]