Indonesian Elections: Some Highlights

Indonesian Election Day on April 17, 2019. (Antara Photo)

On Wednesday, Indonesia pulled off the country’s first simultaneous presidential and legislative elections: and what was perhaps the world’s most complex and largest single-day elections. There were over 800,000 voting stations, more than 190 million eligible voters and around five million election staff, just to name a few of the aspects that made April 17, 2019, a day worth celebrating for the whole nation.

Political uncertainty looms large across the globe, and Indonesia had good reasons to be optimistic, but cautious. I was anxious about the elections, and stayed up the night before worried that I won’t be able to cast my vote. It was a bit of a hassle in my case: I had no idea the exact location of my polling station, only that it was at least an hour away from where I currently live because I was registered according to my old address. In the end, thanks to my wonderful mother who drove me to vote, I was able to do what felt like an important civil duty.

It will take another month until official results will be released by the General Elections Commission (KPU), but quick count results from independent pollsters in the country have shown that incumbent President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo secured a comfortable lead against former general Prabowo Subianto. Now, it’s possible that you may have heard a different outcome, as both candidates at this point have announced their victory. It’s no surprise to find credible information distorted for personal gains in Indonesia, and though this is hardly a surprise given the fact that Prabowo pulled something similar in the 2014 Presidential Election, it’s still perplexing nonetheless.

For the time being, however, I’d like to channel my energy to some of the more awesome stuff that took place during the elections this year.

Record Voter Turnout, Impressive Logistical Accomplishments

Indonesia saw a whopping 80 percent voter turnout across the archipelago on Wednesday, amounting to around 154 million registered voters taking part in the “democracy party.”

This is something worth celebrating anywhere in the world, and even more so in the world’s fourth most populous country comprising of around 17,000 islands, where distributing elections logistics is no easy feat.

In Belu, East Nusa Tenggara, election workers must take the hilly road to deliver election logistics to the people in the more remote locations. (Antara Photo)
In Aceh, ballot boxes and materials were brought to a polling station by elephant-riding mahouts. (Antara Photo)
In East Java, election workers carry ballot boxes on their backs as they cross the river to reach the remote polling stations.

A big thank you to all of our dedicated election workers, who worked hard to ensure that Indonesians will get to exercise their right to vote even in the most remote parts of Indonesia. It led to a largely smooth and peaceful election, and further fuelled unprecedented enthusiasm in the democratic process.

Voting, the Indonesian Way

Who says we can’t have fun on Election Day? A number of polling stations adopted unique themes to mark the day, from horror to superheroes, adding just a little bit more festivity to the occasion.

Election workers dress up in traditional Minang wedding costumes at this polling station in West Sumatra. (Antara Photo)
All kinds of ghosts came out to vote at this polling station in Lebak Bulus, Jakarta. (Antara Photo)
Spiderman was among those who voted in this polling station in Bali. (Antara Photo)
Nicholas Saputra, who supposedly never posts a photo of himself on his Instagram account, did so to encourage voters to show up at their respective polling stations on Wednesday.

Those who voted were also eligible to enjoy special discounts in many stores throughout the day by just showing their ink-dipped fingers: just ask my aunt and cousin who went straight to the mall to get the most out of the one-day only offer.

For many Indonesians, Election Day was that much merrier when Nicholas Saputra “broke the Internet” with an “I voted” selfie posted on his Instagram. It doesn’t matter which presidential or legislative candidates you support, we can at least all agree that this bit was a blessing for the whole nation.

Youth and Activism in the 2019 Elections

There’s no reason Indonesians shouldn’t be proud of ourselves as we come out of this election. We’ve accomplished a lot as a country in our practice of electoral politics, but we should still be far from satisfied.

Despite the high voter turnout, many activists did not forgo their promises to abstain from voting. Absenteeism, better known as “Golput” in Indonesia, was alive and well on Wednesday, and they still showed up to the polling stations in order to make sure their vote was null and that their ballot papers are not misused. This, in my humble opinion, is a form of respectful and responsible activism that should be commended. The commitment to stay strong to one’s values is all too rare in Indonesia, and I salute anyone who dares to break the mold in order to pave way for a better Indonesia.

We also saw how the Indonesia Solidarity Party (PSI) attracted the fourth-most votes based on quick-count results at the legislative election in Jakarta, showcasing a pretty remarkable accomplishment for the new party. I can’t say I don’t have my personal skepticisms about PSI, but the support they garnered — which accounts for around three million votes–also means that many Indonesians are eager for a change, for a tolerant and anti-corrupt society and government, and that’s certainly a positive note from which we can kick off our collaborative efforts to realize an even more democratic Indonesia.

Nationwide enthusiasm to take part in the elections were very apparent to me, be it at the actual polling stations (my own and the ones I passed by), or through the posts I saw on social media. I am more than awed to witness the vibrancy of the Indonesian democracy, though also reminded that we still have a long way to go. The April 17 elections should set precedent for us Indonesians to engage more in our democracy beyond electoral participation.

Indonesian journalist, currently based in Bali.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store