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Indonesia's Regional Elections: The Tale of 2 South Sulawesi Races

July 06,2018 17:10

Java and Sumatra dominate Indonesia. Even when it comes to local elections, where millions outside of those two islands vote for local representation, those results typically do not carry the same weight in analysis or presidential race fortune-telling ...

Image Credit: Flickr/DFAT

Java and Sumatra dominate Indonesia. Even when it comes to local elections, where millions outside of those two islands vote for local representation, those results typically do not carry the same weight in analysis or presidential race fortune-telling. South Sulawesi, home to the fifth-largest city in the archipelago, arguably bucked the trend this year, with two of the most compelling races attracting widespread attention, albeit for very different reasons.
A Tight Race, a Wide Win
Dynasties – and attempted dynasties – are a common fixture in Indonesian politics, and the South Sulawesi gubernatorial race has heralded at least a temporary break from the top for one such family. Outgoing governor Syahrul Yasin Limpo, who had served the maximum two terms, is the second generation in a dynasty established by his father, who had served at the district level. Brother Ichsan Yasin Limpo was tipped to carry the baton and after receiving the mandatory support to run as an independent, a win looked possible but failed to eventuate.
Instead, Golkar stalwart Nurdin Halid took out the vote with a stunning 43 to 44 percent in quick count figures. Halid is a familiar face in both party and South Sulawesi politics, as well as courtrooms. He has been jailed in corruption cases relating to cooking oil and rice import corruption rings and has been implicated in a Suharto-era clove scandal in his roles as head of a variety of local government agencies. Most colorfully, he drew the ire of FIFA after attempting to re-stand as head of Indonesia’s football body, PSSI, in 2011.
Halid denies all allegations, saying, “if you read the ruling carefully, you will see that it says Nurdin Halid has not been proven to have enjoyed the fruits of corruption,” during a debate. None of this rattled over the large chunk of the 6 million voters in South Sulawesi who threw their support behind the Nurdin Abdullah-Andi Sudirman Sulaiman ticket.
Polling had been erratic during the campaign period with no clear winner. Ichsan had at times polled ahead, looking as if it would shape up to be a much closer fight than the result. This is likely to have come down to the Golkar name. South Sulawesi is, despite the Limpo clan, seen to be a stronghold for Golkar. Indeed, Syahrul had been a member of the party until March when he defected to Nasdem, forcing Ichsan to run independently.
This isn’t the end for the Limpo family name, analysts have quickly pointed out. With family members occupying seats in the House of Representatives and a handful of local positions including district head this is possibly a brief break. But, with Golkar continuing its dominance, a return to the fold may be needed.
Makassar Has Bigger Problems
Still, Golkar branding has not helped Munafri Afiruddin in his run for mayor of the city of Makassar. Incumbent Mohammad Ramdhan Pomanto had attempted to run but was ruled ineligible by the Supreme Court, leaving Afiruddin unchallenged. Quick count results from Celebes Research Center show Afiruddin securing just over 46 percent of the vote – losing to nobody. The “blank box,” in which a candidate loses to a no-name write-in option, is unheard of in Indonesian politics and is now the subject of an intense investigation by the electoral commission (KPU).
The local wing of the Independent Journalist Alliance issued a statement shortly after the vote on June 27 alleging that media were blocked from entering the usually free and open vote counting. Speaking to Tempo on the Saturday, head of the Makassar alliance Qodriansyah Agam Sofyan said journalists had been tipped off to irregularities via social media. He alleges that official results of three districts differed greatly from what had been spread online.
Pointing to one example in Tamalate district, Sofyan says official data shows 138 voters went for the blank box option while 94 voted for Afiruddin. Investigations meanwhile showed the candidates had received 238 votes.
Commissioner of Makassar’s KPU, Abdullah Mansyur, clarified Saturday that there has been a problem with data input, and that the quick count results are not considered valid. Allegations are rife that election organizers are responsible for voter manipulation, the means of which are still unclear, prompting the announcement of an intense investigation.
For the KPU, this is a disaster. But the fact remains that with 171 races run across the country in Indonesia’s third simultaneous regional elections, one instance of impropriety ought to be kept in perspective. One should not downplay the degree to which this is a cause for concern, but, similarly, the institution’s performance ought not to be judged by this case alone.

The Diplomat,News,Magazine,Asia-Pacific,Asia,Pacific,ASEAN Beat,Abdullah Mansyur,Independent Journalist Alliance,Indonesia and Corruption,Indonesia and regional elections,Jokowi,KPK,KPU,Makassar,South Sulawesi

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