JAKARTA (AFP) – A documentary claiming Indonesian President Joko Widodo used state resources to try to swing this week’s presidential election in favour of his defence minister has gone viral, amassing millions of views in a day.
Polls show former general Prabowo Subianto is on course to finally lead the world’s third-largest democracy after losing to Widodo in 2014 and 2019.
Widodo has been accused by NGOs and legal experts of manipulating eligibility requirements to install his eldest son as Subianto’s running mate, as well as increasing welfare handouts ahead of the vote in a tacit boost to the frontrunner, who has campaigned on continuing the president’s policies.
The documentary, “Dirty Vote”, directed by well-known Indonesian investigative journalist Dandhy Laksono and free to watch on YouTube, asserts that Widodo’s administration has used state officials and funds to tilt the vote for Subianto, among other allegations.
AFP could not independently verify the documentary’s claims.
The election frontrunner’s team held a press conference after its release on Sunday to deny the allegations.
“The majority of what was told in the movie was something slanderous, it’s a hate narrative that is very assumptive and very unscientific,” said Habiburokhman, deputy chair of Subianto’s campaign team.
“I feel like there’s a tendency to sabotage — not sabotage, to degrade the election with a baseless narrative.”
The documentary, which features three prominent independent legal experts, has racked up more than eight million views on YouTube since its release on Sunday, with many Indonesians taking to social media to comment on its claims.
“Thank you to the Dirty Vote team who has helped open my eyes about the political situation in this country,” read the video’s top comment.
“Dirty Vote” trended worldwide overnight Sunday, with more than half a million tweets on X, formerly known as Twitter.
Politicians got in on the act too.
“Most of it is indeed the truth,” Jusuf Kalla, Widodo’s former vice president from 2014 to 2019, told Metro TV on Monday.
“It didn’t cover everything… because it didn’t cover what happened in the regions, the villages, how the social aid was received… how the officials influenced people.”
A president backing a candidate is not illegal in Indonesia, but Widodo’s perceived support for Subianto has caused controversy because it is uncommon in the country for a sitting president to actively back a successor.
Widodo has said presidents should be allowed to campaign but has denied outright support for any candidate.
Eyebrows have also been raised in the archipelago because the pair used to be rivals, battling in two heated election campaigns.