Indonesia probes poll fraud claims as diaspora casts vote

Signage for the General Election Commission is displayed outside the commission’s office in Jakarta, Indonesia. (Bloomberg pic)

JAKARTA: Indonesia’s election commission ordered an investigation into reports that thousands of ballots have been cast by the diaspora in Malaysia days before overseas polling opened, prompting opposition calls for heightened vigilance in next week’s vote.

The agency aims to complete the probe by Saturday, Tempo newspaper reported, citing Commissioner Hasyim Asyari.

The commission is also collecting information about the alleged discovery of several bags of votes already cast in favour of incumbent president Joko Widodo and some legislative candidates in Selangor in Malaysia, reported.

General Elections Commission Chairman Arief Budiman said the agency will wait for a report from its officials probing the complaint before taking any decision.

More than 2 million Indonesians living overseas are allowed to cast their votes at foreign missions between April 8 and 14, according to the commission.

Malaysia has an estimated 1.2 million Indonesians eligible to vote on April 14 in the first simultaneous presidential and legislative elections.

Legal challenge

The reports of possible vote-rigging come amid allegations of irregularities in the voter list made by Widodo’s challenger Prabowo Subianto, who has threatened a legal challenge in the event of a defeat in the April 17 poll.

The circulation of a video purportedly showing cast ballots confirms fears of election fraud, Irawan Ronodipuro, Prabowo’s foreign affairs director, said in a statement.

The campaign team of Prabowo, as Subianto is commonly known, asked Widodo to “be professional and neutral in ensuring a fair election with integrity.”

The opposition also demanded the recall of Indonesia’s ambassador to Malaysia for the embarrassment caused by the suspected fraud.

Widodo, known as Jokowi, called for the verification of the allegations and urged people to report cases to the Election Supervisory Board before jumping into conclusions, CNN Indonesia said on its website.

Jokowi leads by a significant though narrowing margin, according to two surveys released on Friday.

While the president led 56.8% to Prabowo’s 37% in a survey by Saiful Mujani Research and Consulting, his lead narrowed 2 points to 54.5% from a month ago in a poll by Roy Morgan.

Prabowo’s campaign team has claimed its survey point to a 24-point lead for the former general, who lost to the incumbent in the bitterly contested 2014 elections.

“The Roy Morgan Poll has consistently shown support for Prabowo increasing during the election campaign, however, with under a week to go it appears time has run out for Prabowo to bridge the gap with President Jokowi set for victory next week,” Michele Levine, chief executive officer of Roy Morgan, said in a statement.