Indonesia: Democracy in action!

July 17, 2014 Comments (0) Political Affairs

As a guest of the International Foundation for Electoral System (IFES) I had the pleasure to witness the 9th July Indonesian Presidential Elections in Jakarta. For me it was an honor to be part of the IFES team. As Indonesia is the third largest democracy in the world with about 188 million voters, seeing the actual implementation of such a massive logistical exercise could only be interesting, right? I started very early in the morning in order to be at the election stations when they opened. We later visited many other stations to get a first-hand impression of democracy in action. I saw families with children and citizens of different political opinions enthusiastically going to cast their vote. Rather than seeing it as an obligation, the people I met were full of belief in the importance of their vote, in shaping the future of Indonesia.

As I observed the elections polls, I wondered how inclusive the election was. I started to think about whether someone or a particular group of people is missing? I quickly concluded that the 9th July Presidential Election was just about as inclusive as possible.

Approximately 188,268,423 voters cast their vote at 475,685 polling stations set-up across the country. It was fewer poling stations than in the April legislative elections due to the regulation that allows having up to 800 voters per station in the presidential election, but only 500 voters per polling station in legislative elections (IFES). In addition, both for 2014 legislative and presidential elections, the Komisi Pemilihan Umum (General Election Commission) allowed citizens abroad to cast a vote. This is a significant sign for inclusiveness, given the fact that there are about 2,038,711 overseas voters who have a possibility to vote in 498 polling stations across the globe (IFES).

Another guest of IFES noted that the election took place only from 7 am to 1 pm, a fairly restrictive timeframe, considering that the election took place during Ramadan and the World Cup! His concern was that many voters might arrive too late or in the very last minute, thereby putting pressure on the stations. In response the KPU Chairman Mr. Husni Kamil Manik said that the polling stations will admit everyone who came to the station before 1pm. The early closing is needed, because the ballots are counted manually and thus each station needs time to do the counting.

The polling stations were set up in many cities and villages across Indonesia and in places generally accessible for the voting population. At the same time KPU made a significant effort to register people who did not have IDs. These people would be registered and given a white paper, which they needed to bring to the voting station on the Election Day. I was lucky to also visit polling stations in locations you usually do not get to see. I was part of a team that went to see a women’s prison. Women who were registered were allowed to cast a vote on the Election Day.

I was also very pleased to hear that disabled people had a possibility to have their families or station workers help them cast their vote. The majority of voting stations seemed accessible to people with disabilities as they were on the ground floor. In addition ballot papers in Braille[1] were available at all polling stations in these elections.

On a final note, I found it a joyful and happy day. I saw a lot of effort to conduct these elections as inclusive as possible. I wish good luck to the Indonesian nation and not least their new President!

[1]Braille is tactile writing system used by completely or partially visually impaired people to read through touch.

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