Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/world/indonesian-general-prabowo8217s-postelection-bluff-nears-useby-date-20140721-zv8y0.html#ixzz384gImLAtIn the almost two weeks since Indonesia’s presidential election on July 9, the big question in Indonesia has been, “What does Prabowo Subianto think he’s doing?”
It was clear from credible “quick counts” of the election result just two hours after the polls closed that the former general had lost and his rival, Jakarta governor Joko Widodo had won with a margin of between 4 and 6 percentage points.
From the start, though, the former military general has refused to concede. First he claimed victory himself on the basis of information from other quick count pollsters which he must have known were dodgy (because he had bought and paid for them).
Prabowo Subianto, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and Joko Widodo attend a prayer at the State Palace in Jakarta. Photo: AP
Then he warned his followers to be on guard for any attempts to fix, buy or steal the vote. The crucial day, he told them, was July 22 when the Electoral Commission, the KPU, came up with its final tally.
Then he did a flurry of interviews with international media outlets (interviews he had not done when he was campaigning before the election) to express his confidence in victory. In a bizarre encounter on the BBC he said: “All the ‘real count’ coming in shows that I’m leading, so I think I am very confident”.
In the Wall Street Journal he said Mr Joko had engaged in “massive” vote buying in “many, many places” — a feat no reasonable Indonesian would believe the disorganised Jokowi campaign capable of.
But July 22 was always going to be crunch day. And, in the real world, it was always going to show Prabowo losing. The crowd-sourced tally of Electoral Commission figures shows Prabowo’s loss, as does, by this late stage in the process, anybody with a calculator and enough time to crunch the numbers. Jokowi will be the next president with a comfortable margin of approximately 52.8 per cent to 47.2 per cent.
Yet, on the eve of the announcement, still Prabowo is refusing to concede. So now he has turned his attention to trying to bully the umpire, the Electoral Commission.
On Sunday, after a day-long meeting with his closest advisers, he burst out saying he was calling into question the “legitimacy of the process”.
To the extent that there is a plan here, it appears Prabowo will now try to build as much of a grievance as he can to give him grounds to take the issue to the Constitutional Court. Perhaps he hopes he can bully or bribe the court to hold a re-election or reverse the result.
Until recently, this might have seemed to be a risk — the court’s last chief justice was this month sentenced to life imprisonment for taking massive bribes to change results in local elections. But, with that sentence in mind, the current court will be more careful. Besides, a presidential election on a 6 per cent margin is an order of magnitude more important, and more closely watched than a regency somewhere in East Java.
People are also wondering if Prabowo has a “ground game” — riots, looting, violence of the kind that ended Suharto’s era — to perhaps create such profound unrest that somebody orders a new election.
“You want me disclose our game plan?” said Prabowo’s brother, Hashim, when asked about this recently. “There is nothing in our game plan that foresees taking to the streets.”
But protests also, are likely to fail. The Idul Fitri feast takes millions of people out of Jakarta, and the exodus will begin on Wednesday, the day after the Electoral Commission’s announcement. Besides, there is general weariness with the fight, and the pretty clear indication that Prabowo has lost should stop any widespread feelings of injustice emerging.
In the end, all Prabowo’s positioning seems little more than bluff and bluster.
So we return to the original question: “What does he think he’s doing? How do we explain these weeks of living petulantly?”
In the Wall Street Journal interview, Prabowo himself gives a clue.
“There was always this feeling that maybe I’m destined to be called to serve my country as the national leader, as the president,” he said. His brother, Hashim, was to be successful in business so he could help him.
Prabowo was told on his mother’s knee that his purpose in life was to rule the country. He has done everything he can to make it happen, but, for the third time, he’s failed.
Now, battered and bloody, he simply refuses to believe, will not accept, that he’s lost his last, best shot at the title.