Former general Prabowo Subianto’s refusal to accept unofficial counts showing he lost the Indonesia presidential race to Jakarta Governor Joko Widodo has focused attention on the seven-person body that’s charged with confirming the votes in the world’s third-biggest democracy. The General Elections Commission is tallying votes from the July 9 ballot, with official results due in less than two weeks. About 140 million votes need to be added up across an archipelago that would stretch from New York to Alaska, with the numbers passing through village, district, provincial and regional tabulation centers before reaching Jakarta. While the election was violence-free and Jakarta’s streets quiet yesterday, a result seen as questionable by either side risks legal challenges and public protests. Even after the country moved to direct presidential elections a decade ago, having shaken off the rule of dictator Suharto in 1998, graft is widespread, with Indonesia ranked 114th among 177 countries in a 2013 Transparency International corruption perceptions survey.
“This is a test of Indonesia’s democracy, our maturity to practice democracy,” said Hikmahanto Juwana, a professor of international law at the University of Indonesia near Jakarta. “The burden is on the election commission now, and then people must refrain from doing anything that may provoke conflict or social unrest.”
… The results are hauled, sometimes by horseback and on foot, from polling stations on 900 inhabited islands to regional centers. While counting at local booths is done publicly — those figures form the basis of the quick counts — adding the results up is done in secret.
Getting the results to Jakarta takes several steps: A sheet with the polling station tally is sent to the nearest village to be amalgamated with other results, then sent along several further stops — including the district level — where they are added again before reaching the capital, said Paul Rowland, a Jakarta-based political analyst and former Indonesia country director for advocacy group the National Democratic Institute.