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Jakarta Post

Keep calm and vote

  • Editorial Board

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Mon, April 15, 2019   /   08:29 am
Keep calm and vote A volunteer encourages people at Car Free Day in Jakarta on Sunday to go to polling stations to vote in the legislative and presidential elections on April 17. (The Jakarta Post/Wendra Ajistyatama)

What transpired in the past week, especially in what has been widely suspected to be vote-rigging in Malaysia and the fact that hundreds of Indonesians in Sydney, Australia, were disenfranchised could be a cause for concern for those closely watching the 2019 general election.

Are these instances a one-off problem or does it reflect a wider more systematic problem related to voter registration and logistical distribution, which if left unattended could undermine the credibility of its outcome?

When the Constitutional Court ordered in 2014 that both the presidential and the legislative elections be held simultaneously, we kind of knew that problems would arise. This is after all one of the most complex elections in the world, with more than 192 million people voting in national and regional legislative elections, choosing from over 245,000 candidates. These voters will cast their ballots on April 17 at more than 800,000 polling stations.

We can certainly hope that what had transpired at overseas polling stations are just teething problems, where poll workers encountered problems because of new mechanisms being put in place and that it will not be repeated on a wider scale at national level come April 17.

Indonesia could certainly hope for glitch-free balloting on Wednesday, because it would cap off what has largely been a peaceful and amicable process right from the moment when incumbent President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo and his challenger, Prabowo Subianto, registered their bids with the General Elections Commission (KPU) in August last year.

Even during the stage when we expected that tension would be high, the open campaign period, it proceeded without incident. During the televised presidential debates, on-stage sparks flew whenever Jokowi and Prabowo tried to drive their points home, but off-stage supporters of both candidates never tried to sort out their differences through violence. The only place where the rhetoric heated up was on social media, but this is true in any election anywhere in the world and this is exactly why we have problems with hoaxes and fake news.

Two of the most persistent problems are vote buying and bribery, as our special report today found. The recent revelation by the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) that it had found thumb-shaped stamps on thousands of envelopes — with denominations of Rp 20,000 (US$1.42) and Rp 50,000 inside them — that were confiscated from Golkar Party lawmaker Bowo Sidik Pangarso confirmed suspicions of vote buying.

Having said that we can only expect political candidates, politicians and their supporters to remain peaceful and calm after April 17, when pollsters announce their exit polls. Doomsayers might have predicted that something bad would happen from disputed election results, but we have trodden this well-worn path before. After five democratic elections since 1999, we now believe that voters in Indonesia are mature enough to understand the process and would accept the outcome even if it does not go their way.

By now, an election should just be another civic duty for all and its results should bring optimism.