Agam's Gecko
Monday, October 11, 2004
Agam will be even less productive than usual in the coming weeks, due to being away from the home office. A trip to Indonesia is in order, and it might get me motivated to write more when I get back. Motivation noticeably lacking last week, when I'd intended to write some more post Indo-election news -- although it was also the tail end of a period of holding down the fort here while the boss was out of town. I may or may not have the opportunity / inclination to blog from Jakarta or elsewhere on the Java isle.

I am looking forward to meeting one of my Tapaktuan family who lives in the capital, the only one of the immediate family who I haven't met personally yet. Unfortunately, although Mother and Father sometimes visit and stay for several months at a time, I think they will be in Aceh when I'm in there.

I wrote before about the lack of an unseemly rush to claim victory in Indonesia's first popular election of a president, the willingness to go along with the incumbent Megawati's call for the nation to wait until the official result would be announced. Well now I feel she's pushing this a little bit too far, and the impression is inescapably one of an individual who is clutching and clinging to her exalted status just a little too stubbornly.

The "official result" was indeed announced by the independent Election Commission exactly one week ago today. It was due out on the 5th of the month, but the counting and all procedures were duly completed ahead of time, so they made the offical announcement as the Commission's final act in its present incarnation. Remarkably, the complete final tally came in almost spot on with the results of the unofficial "Quick Count" -- which is a kind of exit poll if I understand it correctly -- on election night itself. The final result differed by 0.4% from the Quick Count, in SBY's favour.

So last Monday's afternoon and dinner hour news broadcasts were full of excitement, as people seemed to be looking forward to seeing the next public act of this new democratic procedure, one they'd been actually waiting for since voting day 2 weeks earlier. Commentators on panel discussions talked about how this was handled in more developed democracies, and the underlying symbolism of the concession speech of one leader, followed by the victory speech from the other. All during this two week period, Pak Susilo was very discrete with word and action, receiving well wishers at his home (and they kept coming even after the "open house" was ended). A few hours after the Commission's official report, everyone expected Pak Susilo at long last, to finally accept the mandate his people had given him as their new prsident. Of course, being a gentleman, he would wait until Ibu Mega had made her public statement first.

Reporters stationed at Megawati's residence weren't even sure if she was home. Eventually her cavalcade entered the grounds, with some of her party officials tagging along, and there were apparently inner sanctum confabs that needed to be held first. At SBY's house the atmosphere was still welcoming to all, and a happy mood permeated the crowds of ordinary folks, who just kept on arriving in hopes to hear what "Bapak Presiden" would have to say. Megawati's place still looked dark, like nobody's home, except for the poor bored reporters waiting at the gate. I think he sensed the impatience, and perhaps wanting to give his opponent a gentle nudge, Pak Susilo emerged at last from his home and sat outdoors with his people in the pendopo -- a large covered pavillion favoured by Javanese for their homes. At least this was my reading of it -- he wanted to have this done the right way, and he wanted to let Mega take the lead. It was his way of saying, "I'm ready, but you first." Of course she had her TV on like everyone else did that night, but eventually an assistant came out and told the reporters that she would have no further comment that night. Pak Susilo mingled with the folks at his home but had no real public comments.

The following day was the birthday of the Armed Forces. Megawati was there of course, to view the parades and flypast etc., and Susilo was present as well. She made a speech, and she still didn't concede the election, only mentioning something about how the people were the true winners, no matter who would be selected to lead. It looks like she intends to push this all the way to the swearing in on Oct. 20! In other words, no concession from her, and no opportunity for SBY to accept the people's mandate, congratulate her graciously as is his style, or any of that good, inspiring democratic spirit of goodwill and honourable competition which fair elections are supposed to engender. I feel quite disappointed with her, as though she has robbed her people of one of the significant stages in a proper, and open electoral process.

I'm sure that many of her fellow citizens will have noticed Saturday's election in Australia, and will have seen that the challenger Mark Latham had conceded his defeat on election night, opening the way for John Howard to make his acceptance speech immediately after. When it's clear who won and who lost -- and Howard actually picked up seats in this election -- then it's no shame to admit the fact. Waiting for recounts or official tallies when they won't make any difference, just appears stubborn. And that's exactly what Ibu Megawati is leaving for her final memory, in my opinion. She was 20 million votes behind SBY at the end, she had less than 40% in the final count, and she had less than 40% on election night. Everyone knew she had lost it, on that first evening. But everyone was also ready to give her her space. Such a shame that she couldn't reciprocate.

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