Boxes of what are appear to be pre-marked ballots for next week's presidential and legislative elections in Indonesia, seen at a warehouse in Malaysia on Friday. (Antara Photo/Rafiuddin Abdul Rahman)

Indonesia Grapples With Vote-Rigging Rumor After Pre-Marked Ballots Found in Malaysia


APRIL 13, 2019

Jakarta. Pre-marked ballots for Indonesia's presidential and legislative elections found in Malaysia have sparked a war of words over what is seen as the latest attempt to undermine the democratic process in the world's fourth-largest democracy. 

A video circulating on social media of people unpacking plastic backs containing ballots marked in favor of presidential ticket Joko "Jokowi" Widodo and his running mate Ma'ruf Amin and also for a legislative candidate of the National Democratic Party (NasDem) at a warehouse in Selangor, Malaysia, has caused many to doubt the integrity and transparency of the 2019 elections.

The Election Supervisory Agency (Bawaslu) has confirmed the existence of the marked ballots and promised to complete its investigation into the matter by Sunday. 

"We will complete this as soon as possible, before voting day at polling stations," Bawaslu commissioner Mochammad Afifuddin said on Friday.

A team of five Bawaslu members has flown to Malaysia to dig up more information on the incident.

Close to 560,000 Indonesian voters are based in Malaysia, but only a fifth will cast their votes on Sunday. Most Indonesians in Malaysia, who work on remote oil palm plantations across the country, have cast their votes earlier by mail or at mobile voting booths set up by the commission.

Overall, about 2 million Indonesians have voted abroad, accounting for less than 1 percent of the election total. 

Yaza Azzahra Ulyana, head of the Election Monitoring Committee (Panwaslu) in Kuala Lumpur, reportedly received a tip-off about the pre-marked ballots from a Prabowo Subianto-Sandiaga Uno campaign team volunteer in Malaysia and immediately headed to the location with a committee member. 

"We found about 40,000 to 50,000 pre-marked ballots," Yaza said on Thursday. 

The allegations were followed by calls on the General Elections Commission (KPU) to postpone the Indonesian elections in Malaysia.

The Prabowo-Sandiaga campaign team was quick to point out that this was the latest attempt by the incumbent, Jokowi, to cheat. Prabowo, who despite trailing by double digits in the latest polls, has made significant gains over the past four months. 

The campaign team has also floated the allegation of a rigged election among supporters. "We will not accept a stolen election," Prabowo told Bloomberg. "If the powers that be want to cheat massively, they will be going against the will of the people."

Team Jokowi Responds

The Jokowi-Ma'ruf campaign team has meanwhile urged voters to follow all election regulations.

"The national campaign team supports fair elections. If there is fraud, it is by irresponsible people who want to prevent the April 17 elections from running smoothly," Erick Thohir, chairman of the Jokowi-Ma'ruf campaign team, said in Jakarta on Thursday.

The Jokowi-Ma'ruf camp has asked representatives of the election organizer and watchdog to carefully process reports of possible violations.

"If there are groups of people or individuals from our side who commit fraud, I ask law enforcers to take action in accordance with the applicable laws and regulations," he said.

Jokowi said he would leave the matter in the hands of Bawaslu and the National Police, and expressed hope that they would thoroughly investigate the case.

"Investigations are being carried out, both by Bawaslu and the police. If there were violations, Bawaslu will take action. If a crime was committed, the police must be firm and prosecute [those involved]," the incumbent president said on Friday.