After a Fractious Election Between Prabowo and Jokowi, Animosity Lingers

Dissatisfaction: Jokowi’s narrow win means nearly half the people who voted will have to accept a president who wasn’t their choice

Jakarta. The lingering resentment from Indonesia’s bitterly contested presidential election has for weeks now seen politicians from the camp of losing candidate Prabowo Subianto continue to wage a war of words against President-elect Joko Widodo.

But the sense of disappointment hasn’t been limited to Prabowo’s inner circle.

Nearly two months after the July 9 election, even after the official announcement of Joko’s victory — later confirmed by a Constitutional Court ruling — many grass-roots supporters and sympathizers of Prabowo remain deeply dissatisfied with the outcome, and have not been shy about expressing their bitterness and cynicism, and the occasional smear, toward the president-elect.

“Do those who supported Jokowi [in the election] repent now? Those who haven’t, hopefully they will soon,” a homemaker in Tangerang wrote on her Facebook page last week, referring to Joko by his nickname.

The post carried a link to a media report that said Joko had asked outgoing President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to raise subsidized fuel prices before the end of his term in office, so as to ease the constraints on the incoming administration’s budget.

Sites like Twitter abound with criticism of Joko. On Tuesday, for instance, a Twitter user wrote: “It’s now your call. Do you want to be led by Joko Widodo, a corruptor, a communist, a liar, and a foreign stooge?”

Another user, meanwhile, tweeted, “Let’s congratulate Jokowi on September 30, [as the] president of G30S/PKI,” referring to the alleged coup attempt blamed on the now-defunct Indonesian Communist Movement (PKI) on Sept. 30, 1965.

The weeks leading up to the presidential election were indeed marked by a seemingly concerted smear campaign against Joko, who saw his lead in the polls of more than 30 points whittled down to single digits by balloting day, particularly among conservative Muslim voters who bought into claims that he was, variously, Christian, Jewish, ethnic Chinese, a communist, and a capitalist US agent.

But even after the General Elections Commission (KPU) announced him the winner of the election with 53 percent of the vote, and after the Constitutional Court, in its final and binding verdict, rejected the Prabowo camp’s allegations of massive poll fraud, the negative sentiments toward Joko did not stop, in stark contrast to how quickly animosities subsided after the 2004 and 2009 presidential elections.

Besides the continuing wave of criticism from grassroots voters, more prominent names such as 1998 pro-democracy activist Sri Bintang Pamungkas have also continued to voice their rejection of the election results.

Sri, who in March staged a rally at the Hotel Indonesia traffic circle in Central Jakarta to reject Joko’s candidacy, last week said that he intended to thwart Joko and Vice President-elect Jusuf Kalla’s inauguration at the People’s Consultative Assembly (MPR) on Oct. 20.

“We will collect thousands of people to occupy the MPR building [during the inauguration ceremony],” Sri said on Friday as quoted by

“Besides being a puppet, Jokowi is likely an agent for the Republic of China. How could Indonesia be led by an agent and a puppet? Just by kissing the hand of the American ambassador he already looks like a real puppet,” he added.

‘Three circles’

Hamdi Muluk, a professor of political science at the University of Indonesia, noted that this year’s election differed from previous ones in the degree that it polarized the voting public.

He said Prabowo’s supporters could be grouped into “three main circles.” The first is the “hard-liners, namely the elite from the parties in Prabowo’s coalition.”

The people in this circle have a direct interest in ensuring victory for Prabowo, and their ideas have been taken into consideration in every step that Prabowo has taken, Hamdi said.
The second circle is the volunteers. They declared their support for Prabowo and persuaded others to do the same. The final circle is the sympathizers, who voted for Prabowo but did not actively attempt to sway others to also vote for him.

“When the results of the quick counts were released, the first and second circles expressed their rejection. Meanwhile, the third circle began to fall silent and tended not to speak out,” Hamdi told the Jakarta Globe.

“After the KPU’s July 22 announcement, the third circle began to take the neutral path, but the rejection by the first circle flared up, leading to increased religious and racial sentiments.

“Finally, after the ruling by the Constitutional Court and [the rejection of Prabowo’s lawsuit] by the State Administrative Court, the third circle became disappointed, especially with the non-statesmanlike attitude displayed by Prabowo. The second circle also appeared to begin to re-evaluate their own attitudes, while the first circle remain determined to continue to strive for Prabowo.”

Hamdi said the lingering rejection among some of Prabowo’s supporters at the grassroots level could be the result of mobilization by the first circle. Elites in the first circle inevitably have the money and power to mobilize the masses in their favor, he said.

‘Heal the rift’

Eva Kusuma Sundari, a legislator from Joko’s Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), also blamed the political elites from the rival camp for letting the deep resentment and dissatisfaction grow among Prabowo’s supporters.

“The key lies with the parties’ elites. They shouldn’t capitalize on [the lingering dissatisfaction]. Instead, they should motivate their supporters to ease the sentiments,” she told the Globe on Tuesday.

Eva added that the deep negativity was expected to end eventually.

“The so-called democratic festivity of the election is over. Now our job is to heal the rift among Indonesians for the sake of this nation’s unity. Any issues related to smear campaigns must be eliminated. They shouldn’t continue, they must be stopped,” she said.

“It is now up to the politicians of this country to show statesmanship to unite our people,” she added.

Hanta Yudha, the director of the Pol-Tracking Institute, a political think tank, echoed the statements, saying the elites played a significant role in ending this issue that had polarized Indonesians.

“Things like smear campaigns are inevitable in a democratic country like Indonesia. The continuing smears on social media are a form of dissatisfaction from Prabowo’s supporters,” he said. “However, rather than continuing to badmouth Joko and not move on, it’s better for our people to get engaged by monitoring the incoming government’s performance in implementing policies and fulfilling campaign promises. That’s surely more important.”

Hanta said he expected the smear campaigns to gradually diminish after Joko’s government began working.

“I’m quite sure that such sentiments in social media will die down, especially after the cabinet is formed. There will likely be parties from [Prabowo’s] Merah Putih coalition jumping ship to Joko’s camp.”

He added that Joko and his transition team shouldn’t have to spend time and energy addressing criticism of the president-elect, but rather focus on forming the cabinet and managing the priority list of programs.

But the “first circle” of Prabowo supporters appear unwilling to give up, announcing that they were seeking a judicial review with the Supreme Court of a KPU regulation “that we consider to be a violation of [a higher] law,” Didi Supriyanto, a lawyer for the campaign team, said as quoted by

The motion is expected to be in vain, given that the Constitutional Court, and not the Supreme Court, is the sole arbiter of election disputes. With their options at the judiciary seemingly exhausted, members of Prabowo’s coalition are now turning to the legislative branch of government by pushing to set up a special committee at the House of Representatives to look into allegations of electoral fraud.

Golkar Party politician Agun Sudarsa said setting up the committee would be the best way to ease the sense of dissatisfaction plaguing the camp.

“The Constitutional Court had little time to thoroughly study all the documents, so [the ruling upholding Joko’s victory] is not substantial. The House committee will be able [to seek] substantial justice, without a deadline,” he said on Friday, as quoted by