Prabowo's Victory Declarations: Signs of Delusion or Deliberate Tactic to Delegitimize Election Results?
Jakarta. Repeated victory declarations by presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto—despite quick count results pointing to an easy win for his rival Joko "Jokowi" Widodo—have raised questions whether the former Army general is suffering from delusions or still playing his favorite "firehose of falsehood" propaganda tactic to delegitimize the results of Wednesday's presidential election.
Prabowo is still refusing to concede defeat to Jokowi, even though quick count results from several reputable pollsters—which were highly accurate in predicting the winners of past elections—showed he has lost by nearly ten percent of the votes.
Official results from the election will be announced by the General Elections Commision (KPU) on May 22.
Hamdi Muluk, a lecturer from the Faculty of Psychology at the University of Indonesia, told local media that Prabowo might be suffering from delusions.
"It is hard for people who are delusional to accept reality, unless that reality fits in perfectly with his expectations," Hamdi told Medcom.id on Friday.
"[That's why] Prabowo has been insisting that he only believes [election] data from the real count [by his own campaign team]," he said.
Ironically, back in 2017 when Prabowo and his Gerindra Party were backing Anies Baswedan and Sandiaga Uno—his current presidential running mate—in the Jakarta gubernatorial election, he quickly claimed victory based on quick count results from the same pollsters as soon as the data were released.
Risks of a Delusional Leader
Hamdi said if Prabowo, a former commander of the Army’s special forces (Kopassus), is spreading his delusional thoughts to his supporters and the public, this may pose a security risk.
"If it is just him who suffers from delusions, that may not be a problem. But if he uses his power to influence others, this can create a collective sickness," he said.
Marcus Mietzner, an associate professor from the Australian National University's College of Asia and the Pacific also described Prabowo as delusional.
"He is a Trumpian figure who lives in a self-created bubble of imagined greatness," Mietzner said as quoted by ABC Australia.
"Any disturbances to that fantasy world are met with further manipulative additions to his own reality," he said.
The often irreverent Indonesian Museum of Records (MURI) announced that Prabowo has broken his own record as the presidential candidate to have made the most number of victory declarations before the announcement of official KPU results. By this Monday, Prabowo has declared victory at least four times already.
Foul Play Allegations Still in Play
Muhammad Said Didu, one of Prabowo's top advisors and a former secretary general at the State-Owned Enterprises Ministry under President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, said the Prabowo camp still believes foul play was involved in Wednesday's presidential and legislative elections.
"[It is as if] the crowd is shouting [foul play], but the referee is refusing to blow the wisthle.... The law says any foul play necessitates a re-election. Peope who legitimize the results of this election are metaphorically sitting on a fire. They are sitting on a throne with raging wildfire underneath," Didu said.
Firehose of Falsehood
Meanwhile, Jokowi's campaign team (TKN) is accusing the Prabowo camp of blurring the facts with its favorite "firehose of falsehood" propaganda plan.
"The first thing they do is instilling a belief in their supporters that Prabowo has actually won. These repeated victory declarations are meant to present a fake reality to Prabowo's supporters and hypnotize them into believing that any information otherwise is misleading or a result of manipulation. Some of his supporters are not even allowed to watch the quick counts on television," TKN spokesperson Ace Hasan Syadzily said on Friday.
This tactic will "bewitch" Prabowo's supporters into believing that the only reliable source of truth—including of election results—is their own campaign team.
"The objective is to keep the supporters' spirit up, so they can be mobilized for more actions, including for a 'people power' demonstration. This could be a dangerous move," Ace said.
The other objective is to delegitimize the KPU, which so far is doing a good job of not buckling under the pressure of counting election results from more than 800,000 polling stations across the country.
Ace said the Prabowo camp is deliberately claiming victory by a huge margin—Prabowo's latest announcement claimed he had won 62 percent of the votes—so the result will definitely be different to KPU's official count.
This will give them a reason to claim that the KPU count was tainted and that the election results have been engineered.
"This narrative is only to be expected coming from [the Prabowo camp]. During the campaign period, they were spreading hoaxes about containers of spoiled ballots [being shipped to Indonesia], 'ghost voters,' civil servants being pressured to vote for Jokowi and pre-marked ballots overseas. They've been plugging the same narrative since long before the elections. The ultimate goals is to delegitimize the KPU and the elections," Ace said.
Be a "Ksatria" or At Least Act Like One!
Asad Ali Said, a senior figure from Nahdlatul Ulama (NU)—the world's largest Muslim organization—has called on Prabowo to act honorably like a "ksatria" (knight) to keep the country united rather than entertain his thirst for power.
"If anyone is not happy with the KPU count, let them complain to the Constitutional Court. If they [the Prabowo camp] wish to do that, go ahead, but once the Constitutional Court has made its decision, there should be no more objections," Asad said.
"Prabowo was a high-ranking officer in the Indonesian Military (TNI). He must've been trained the ways of the 'kastria.' Soldiers know when they must press on with an attack, and when the time has come to retreat. I believe he knows this is the right time to retreat," said Asad, who was also a former deputy chief of Indonesia's Inteligence Agency (BIN).
Asad also said that at the moment, any threat of a "people power" takeover is an empty one.
He said the last time people power ushered in great changes in Indonesian society in 1998, it was precipitated by a massive economic crisis that nearly crippled the nation—and that is simply not happening now.
Prior to the elections, Lt. Gen. Joni Supriyanto, the newly appointed chief of the general staff of the Indonesian Military, told the Jakarta Globe there has never been a case in the country's history when the people did not recognize the results of an election.
Prabowo Subianto Djojohadikusumo is the son of legendary economist and "New Order architect" Soemitro Djojohadikusumo. He spent 28 years in the military, before turning into business and then politics after the fall of President Suharto, who was his father-in-law.
Prabowo's last job in the military was as commander of the Army's Strategic Reserves Command (Kostrad) in 1998 before Wiranto, the Military chief at that time, and now a Jokowi backer and Indonesia's Chief Security Minister, discharged him from his duties.
Suharto commanded the same position as Prabowo in 1965 before he rose to power and began his 32-year military dictatorship.Tags: