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Jakarta Post

Democracy that works

  • Editorial Board

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Thu, June 28, 2018   /   08:09 am
Democracy that works A voter shows off his inked pinkie after casting his vote in the Bali gubernatorial election in East Denpasar on Wednesday, June 27, 2018. (JP/Anggara Mahendra)

Credit should go not only to the security authorities for their all-out effort to safeguard democracy in the simultaneous regional elections on Wednesday, but also, and especially, to all eligible voters who freely exercised their right in 171 provinces, regencies and municipalities across the country to prove that democracy works. 

The people defied tensions between the competing camps, including candidates and their supporters, and maintained their composure during the four-month electoral campaign until they cast their ballots. The war-like atmosphere was felt perhaps more acutely in the virtual world of social media, where libel, fake news and unsubstantiated accusations were rampant. However, reactions in the real world were surprisingly lukewarm as evident in the few reports of conflict on the ground.

Trouble occurred and forced a delay in the elections in the remote Papuan regencies of Nduga and Paniai. Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister Wiranto said an armed group attacked the police, who were providing cover for the delivery of poll material in Nduga, while in Paniai a squabble erupted over the local poll commission’s decision to disqualify a candidate.

It seems voters in most regions were mature enough to accept that the elections were simply a five-yearly political cycle that might not instantly change their lives. Many of them relished the elections as a real fiesta of democracy. They, for example, helped set up and decorate polling stations and provided food and drinks to the poll workers to ensure the event went smoothly.

Similarly, poll workers displayed much enthusiasm, thanks to the full support of people in nearby neighborhoods. In Malang, East Java, poll workers took advantage of World Cup fever, turning the polling station into a soccer field and wearing the jerseys of teams competing in the tournament to woo voters to participate in the election. “We hope the World Cup can inspire everybody to uphold fair play in the election,” local community unit head Haris Tofly told the media.

In fact local elections, like political contestations at the national level, are the fairest mechanism to either reward or punish an incumbent (or his or her party). An incumbent who disappoints his or her people through a breach of campaign promises or fails to convince increasingly demanding voters will certainly be shown the door.

The phenomenon of public punishment could unfold in West and East Java, the country’s two most populous provinces, if the General Elections Commission (KPU) confirms the quick count results there. West Java Deputy Governor Dedy Mizwar and East Java Deputy Governor Saifullah Yusuf lost their respective bids for the governor’s post, according to Saiful Mujani Research & Consulting and Kompas daily researchers. 

The generally peaceful elections should give us confidence that the legislative and presidential elections next April will follow suit, regardless of the hostility among supporters of possible candidates. The lesson we can learn from Wednesday’s elections is that voters are more or less familiar with candidates’ track records ahead of voting day. Congratulations to democracy.