Plans for a massive rally in the middle of Jakarta in support of losing Presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto appear to be losing steam fizzled with a decision by the government election commission to release of official results early showing President Joko Widodo and his running mate handily defeated Prabowo Subianto by 55. 5 percent to 44.5 percent. The release removes some of the steam from Prabowo’s allies’ plans to rally when the election commission was to make them public.
Prabowo was said to have washed his hands of the protest rally and was believed to be in Brunei, inspecting polo ponies. Authorities had raised the possibility of violence in the center of Jakarta with the government and police maneuvering to prevent it. Some companies in Jakarta encouraged their workers to stay home for the day.
That doesn’t mean there wasn’t the potential for trouble. Prabowo’s call for action took place amid reports of the arrests of at least 69 terrorism suspects since January, of which 29 were alleged to be planning to detonate a bomb in a crowd. They are members of the terrorist group Jamaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD) affiliated with Islamic State (IS) in Syria.
Police Prevent People from Coming to Jakarta
Earlier, National Police Spokesman Inspector Gen. Mohammad Iqbal appealed to the public not to take to the streets because potential attacks might still exist. But Prabowo’s sympathizers took to the Facebook group of the United Muslim Cyber Army (UMCA), which has more than 102,000 members, to denounce the arrests as nothing more than farce and lies to divert the issue of electoral fraud and an effort to frighten them into coming to Prabowo’s rally.
The government’s Election Agency originally recorded Jokowi the winner with 55.76 percent of the total vote with 89 percent of the votes counted in the snap tally, remarkably close to the official result.
On May 14, Prabowo claimed massive fraud at various stages in the election, saying he would reject the results of the snap vote counts. He previously claimed he had won with 62 percent of the votes based on a quick count by his own team, which later changed the figure to 54.24 percent of the vote without explanation.
Although claims of fraud have occurred, Prabowo’s team was considering legal action through the Constitutional Court – the mechanism for presidential candidates dissatisfied with the results. Prabowo’s team argue that they do not believe in legal proceedings, which they claim to favor the authorities. In the 2014 presidential election, Prabowo sued in the Constitutional Court but lost.
This time, he sought to mobilize the masses to protest the results, calling it a “people power” movement despite the election commission’s early declaration of the final results. The term “people power”was changed to the National Sovereignty Movement (GNKR) after several initiators were reported to the police on treason charges.
The mercurial former special forces general has been tied to violence in the past, in particular in 1997 and 1998 as Indonesia descended into chaos in the wake of the Asian Financial Crisis. Human rights groups accused Prabowo of being behind the abduction and torture of pro-democracy advocates and for orchestrating riots in an attempt to save the presidency of his then father-in-law, the late strongman Suharto. More than 1,000 deaths resulted, most of them ethnic Chinese, and nearly 170 women were raped.
Prabowo’s support network includes the 212 Movement — the same group that held demonstrations in 2017 to oppose former Jakarta governor Basuki Tjahaya Purnama on spurious charges of insulting Islam.
The term “People Power” in this case was popularized for the first time by Amien Rais, member of Prabowo’s team, during a demonstration in front of the KPU on March 31. At that time, he threatened to mobilize the masses to protest the KPU if the Prabowo campaign team found evidence of electoral fraud.
The “People Power” movement later came under pressure from the government, including through the establishment of a Legal Assistance Team whose task was to review the speeches and actions of political figures who were considered inciting and provoking the public. Coordinating Minister for Politics, Law and Human Rights and the initiator of the legal team, Wiranto said that several political figures, mostly Prabowo’s supporters such as Eggi Sudjana, Kivlan Zein and Permadi face investigation.
“Now it is proven that Eggi Sudjana can be processed by law. Kivlan Zen, Permadi, is waiting their turn (for legal proceedings). Who else?,” said Wiranto. “If you don’t want to deal with the police, then don’t talk wrong,”
This isn’t the first time police have accused terrorists seeking to launch terror attacks during demonstrations. In November 2016, nine terrorists were arrested for infiltrating a demonstration against Ahok and planning to seize officers’ weapons. Those affiliated with IS don’t appear to be connected to the Islamists backing Prabowo, however.
“Attending the 22 May action is dangerous because they (terrorists) will attack the masses, including police officers,” said National Police Spokesman Inspector Gen. Mohammad Iqbal.
Police displayed homemade bombs, chemicals for explosive materials, sharp weapons such as machetes and arrows and jihad books. Police also played the testimony of a suspect, Dede Yusuf, who was claimed to have coordinated colleagues in a plan to conduct amaliah or terror attack during the May 22 rally.
“There will be a crowd that is a good event for me to do amaliyah. Because this (election) is a democratic event which, according to my belief, is syirik akbar (ignore God) which cancels Islam,” Yusuf was quoted as saying in a video.
Fundamentalists share the same ideas about the concepts of democracy and elections. In a WhatsApp group called “Sayap Merah” (Red Wings), dozens of IS sympathizers share images, narratives, and videos that show their hatred of the government and security forces. Elections are not only prohibited (haram) and those who participate are said to be apostate.
“It is strictly forbidden to attend this invitation (voting) because it causes you to apostatize,” said a group member, Yudit on election day. “Democracy is the way of the devil,” said another member under the pseudonym Daun Bayam.
The group distributed lectures of two radical preachers, Abu Bakar Ba’asyir and Aman Abdurrahman as the basis for rejecting laws other than God’s law, including general elections. Ba’asyir and Abdurrahman are now in prison but their lectures still circulate widely.
Although the group members desire an Islamic state, they are opposed to conservative figures such as Rizieq Shihab, the head of Islamic Defenders Front, and Abdul Somad, head of Hizb ut-Tahrir Indonesia. IS sympathizers often mocked the demonstrations initiated by the 212 movement and expelled members who supported them.