What matters most in general elections and other balloting-related decision-making processes is the results. And while results are always associated with scores or figures, discrepancies over the exact number of eligible voters, known as the final voters list (DPT), have apparently been the most hotly debated issue from one general election to another. The Jakarta Post’s Hasyim Widhiarto and Hans Nicholas Jong offer a critical view of the issue.
Speaking with a long face, Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) politician and former House of Representatives lawmaker Hasto Kristianto shared his bitter experience when bidding for re-election as a legislative candidate in the 2009 general election.
Competing in the 7th East Java electoral district, representing Magetan, Pacitan, Ngawi, Trenggalek and Ponorogo districts, Hasto lost a significant number of votes of PDI-P supporters in the DPT.
“In areas known as our traditional strongholds, many PDI-P supporters were surprisingly not registered as eligible voters on the DPT. On the other hand, a significant number of ‘ghost voters’ suddenly appeared on the DPT in other areas,” Hasto said in a recent interview.
He still managed to garner some 40,000 votes, but it was not enough to help him secure re-election.
President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s Democratic Party led the tally and successfully clinched three out of eight seats offered in the district. One of them went to Yudhoyono’s son and first-time candidate Edhie “Ibas” Baskoro Yudhoyono, who surprisingly secured 327,097 votes, the highest among the 560 elected House members.
Hasto, a close aide to PDI-P chairwoman Megawati Soekarnoputri, has decided not to take part in this year’s legislative election, citing his disappointment and belief that the DPT is still prone to manipulation.
“How come, for example, Pacitan district saw a significant drop of voters ahead of the 2014 general election without any major incident taking place in the past few years?” he asked, referring to Yudhoyono’s hometown.
Data from the General Elections Commission (KPU) shows Pacitan has 460,387 voters for the upcoming general election, 17 percent lower than the 540,516 eligible voters recorded by the Central Statistics Agency (BPS) in 2010.
Counting down to the April 9 legislative election, politicians have once again criticized electoral roll mismanagement after millions of unverified voters were found from the DPT issued by the KPU in November 2013.
For the 2014 election, the KPU has registered around 186 million voters out of 251 million, the BPS’ total population estimate, for the legislative election. During the DPT release, the KPU claimed that 10.4 million voters still lacked citizen registration numbers. It has also pledged to verify and complete the data two weeks before the election.
The PDI-P, along with the People’s Conscience (Hanura) Party, the United Development Party (PPP) and the Great Indonesia Movement (Gerindra) Party, however, have insisted on rejecting the DPT, arguing that the data glitch has indicated the existence of fictitious voters that could unfairly affect the election results.
“The 10.4 million voters in dispute is equal to some 50 House seats, which of course, will affect the country’s political constellation for the following five years,” Gerindra deputy secretary-general and lawmaker candidate Aryo Djojohadikusumo said.
The Democratic Party won the 2009 general election after it clinched 148 seats, or 26.4 percent, out of 560 House seats, followed by the Golkar Party and the PDI-P that secured 106 (18.9 percent) and 94 (16.7 percent) seats, respectively.
The Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) came fourth with 57 seats (10.2 percent), ahead of the National Mandate Party (PAN) with 46 seats (8.2 percent), the PPP with 38 seats (6.8 percent), the National Awakening Party (PKB) with 28 seats (5 percent), Gerindra with 26 seats (4.6 percent), and Hanura with 17 seats (3 percent).
All parties — except the PDI-P, Gerindra and Hanura — then formed a coalition to support the leadership of Yudhoyono, who managed to secure his presidential re-election a few months after the 2009 legislative election with a landslide victory.
Many surveys have predicted the PDI-P will surpass the Democratic Party as the biggest political party in the 2014 legislative election. Other surveys also place PDI-P politician and Jakarta Governor Joko “Jokowi” Widodo as the strongest contender for the subsequent presidential election.
The DPT fiasco will hamper the chances of the opposition party (PDI-P) of winning the election again after 15 years.
According to University of Indonesia (UI) political science lecturer Chusnul Mar’iyah, many political science theories say the ruling party benefits most from DPT mismanagement, since it helps the party win the election easily.
“In theory, a [ruling] government can easily manipulate the DPT by ‘shrinking’ the population in regions belonging to opposition parties and ‘inflating’ that in their own support bases,” she said.
“Looking at this vulnerability, any government might use the DPT as a political weapon to preserve their power and crush political rivals.”
Serving as KPU commissioner in the 2002-2007 period, Chusnul admitted she often received letters from district heads or mayors requesting the KPU inflate the population numbers in their region so they could receive more development budget from the central government.
By law, citizens older than 17 or already married are eligible to vote in the general and presidential elections. In the 2004 general election, the KPU registered 147 million voters out of the total population of 218 million. Five years later it registered 171 million voters out of the total population of 231 million.
The 2012 Legislative Election Law stipulates the KPU has the authority to prepare the DPT based on the data of eligible voters compiled by central and local governments and during the latest regional head elections.
The law also stipulates that valid data on voters must include name, date of birth, gender, address and civil registration number. If one of the elements is missing, the data is considered void.
The finding of 10.4 million unverified voters continued when the KPU tried to synchronize the list of potential voters (DP4) provided by the government through the Home Ministry.
‘Blatant violation of democracy’
The public concern over DPT mismanagement has repeatedly been aired in the past several years, especially ahead of general, presidential and regional head elections.
The first substantial media coverage on the DPT fiasco dated back to 2008 after defeated East Java gubernatorial candidate Khofifah Indar Parawansa revealed the allegedly dubious voter lists used by the East Java General Elections Commission (KPUD) during that year’s gubernatorial election.
Among the indications of DPT manipulation, according to Khofifah, was the existence of a name that was shared by dozens of people living in one district and an ID card number that was shared by hundreds of people of different genders, under different names and at different addresses. Some names on the DPT were even born in 2044 and 2054.
“This is a blatant violation of democracy and a blatant violation of people’s rights,” she said in March 2009.
The East Java’s DPT dispute also resulted in the resignation of former East Java Police chief Insp. Gen. (ret.) Herman Suryadi Sumawiredja after he was asked by National Police headquarters to drop his investigation into the alleged fraud case during the 2008 East Java gubernatorial election.
Herman took part in the 2013 East Java gubernatorial election as a running mate for Khofifah, who then lost again for the second time to incumbent governor and Democratic Party politician Soekarwo.
DPT mismanagement also became an issue during the 2009 presidential election, in which the campaign teams of presidential candidates Jusuf Kalla and Megawati claimed that the DPT had benefited incumbent President Yudhoyono by some 28 million votes.
There will likely be a repetition this year as some legislative candidates have claimed the KPU’s latest DPT still includes some dubious voters.
“My campaign team still finds many dubious names, like ‘Pocong’ and ‘Kuntilanak’, in the DPT in my electoral district,” said Aryo, referring to the names of two characters in traditional Indonesian ghost stories.
Aryo, a nephew of Gerindra chief patron and presidential candidate Lt. Gen. (ret.) Prabowo Subianto, is running as a legislative candidate in the 3rd Jakarta electoral district, which represents North Jakarta municipality, West Jakarta municipality and Thousand Islands district.
Last month, Prabowo personally met Yudhoyono, his former colleague in the Military Academy, at the State Palace to share his party’s concern about the DPT problem.
KPU commissioner Ferry Kurnia Rizkiyansyah, however, said the KPU and the Home Ministry, as of earlier this month, had already completed the verification of 7.1 million out of 10.4 million voters and was now focusing on updating the data of the remaining 3.3 million voters.
He also claimed the KPU’s DPT contained no fictitious voters and said that what was missing from the unverified voters was their citizen identification numbers (NIK).
“We have been synchronizing the NIKs given by the Home Ministry to some of these unverified voters to make sure no NIK appears twice on the DPT,” Ferry said.
Separately, Democratic Party politician Ruhut Sitompul denied the allegations that the PD would benefit the most from the current DPT mismanagement. He said there was no reason for the Yudhoyono administration to intervene in the work of the KPU since it was now an independent body.
“Many pollsters have predicted that some major political parties will score big in the upcoming general elections. If these parties are confident that they will defeat the Democratic Party, why do they need to blame us for this [DPT] problem?” he said.