The Jakarta Post
One of the most frequently asked questions today with regard to the legislative election is whether it is worth voting at all, if in the end it turns out that our vote makes little difference to Indonesian politics in the next five years.
But if the answer to this question is yes, then who should we vote for?
Going by most recent opinion polls, many people remain undecided about which party and which candidate to vote for come April 9. They seem much more certain about which candidate to choose in the presidential race in July.
The General Elections Commission (KPU), meanwhile, is concerned about the possibility of a low voter turnout that will undermine the credibility of the electoral process.
It has been campaigning for people to vote and has set a 75 percent target.
If you are already decided about which party or candidate should represent you in the House of Representatives, you can stop reading. But for the skeptics and the undecided out there, you have to decide first that your vote can make a difference if you know what it is that you are hoping to achieve by casting your vote.
Here is one suggestion and my personal reason for voting: If you're not happy with the way the oligarchs have taken control of all the major political parties, then you can fight this trend by voting for a candidate closest to your aspirations.
Do not vote for a political party, for you will play right into the oligarchs' hands. Some candidates can be genuine and they can fight against the oligarchy from within the system.
The prospect of choosing a candidate can seem daunting, with so many political parties and candidates running.
Thanks to the Internet, the task is actually a lot easier. Do your research, do not just rely on the mainstream media as many have their own political agenda.
The electoral commission's website kpu.go.id has the information to start you off on researching the candidates in your area, but make sure you go beyond that by asking Google.
Here is an Internet guide to voting for the right candidate.
First, be sure you're registered. On the home page, click the box 'Daftar Pemilih Tetap [DPT]' on the right window. Once you're in, enter your citizen ID number (NIK).
If your name does not appear, then you are not registered and you can start booking that holiday in Bali or Singapore. My name comes up and it tells me that I will be voting in Polling Station 73 in the South Jakarta electoral district.
Second, find out how many seats there are in your electoral district. On the home page on the left window, click 'Daerah Pemilihan Pemilu 2014' and choose 'Peta Dapil Anggota DPR'.
This gives you a list of 33 provinces and how they are divided into electoral districts. Jakarta is divided into three and South Jakarta is Jakarta II with seven seats.
The KPU map wrongly transposes South Jakarta with East Jakarta. I have already emailed the site administrator about the error, but nothing has changed, which makes you wonder if they read their emails at all.
Third, turn to the list of candidates. From the home page, clicking 'DCT DPR PEMILU 2014' gives you the list of electoral districts. Click your district and voilÃ , you have a PDF file of what your ballot paper will look like: 12 parties, their numbers and flags and the list of their candidates with their photos.
I have one ballot paper to cast for 83 candidates in South Jakarta. Going through their names, three or four of them are familiar to me because they are political figures, including an incumbent from my district. Sadly, none deserves my vote. As far as I know, they have done nothing for me or for my district.
But then who does?
If you are like me and are not committed to voting for any political party (I switched parties in the last three elections), then the best way is to start eliminating which parties you think should get your vote. Go through their chairperson, platform, ideology, or track records, and you will start eliminating most of these parties.
In my case, I ended up with two parties and a decent list of 24 candidates to choose from. My research has been made simpler by this process of elimination. You can further simplify the list before you start asking Google.
Don't be baffled by their photos, some of them are old photos, and don't be baffled by the order in the list.
The figures at the top of each party list will likely get elected because they take priority if people vote for the parties and not for the candidates. These are usually figures that suck up to the party chairman or pay large sums.
Consider those lower down the list. They also tend to be younger and if a generational change is an issue for you, then consider giving your vote to them.
If gender equality is an issue for you, then definitely go for women candidates.
You can go through the same process and create shortlists for the Regional Representatives Council (DPD) and the local legislative councils.
Jakarta voters get three ballot papers, but outside Jakarta they have four, since they vote for regency-level councils and the city-level councils.
For the DPD, the candidates are non-partisan and the KPU site lists 35 candidates for Jakarta. I am familiar with some of the names and even know one or two personally, but they are all past their prime. I am looking at younger candidates and will be sure to Google them before making my choice.
For the Jakarta Legislative Council (DPRD), go to the KPU Jakarta website (kpujakarta.go.id) and follow the same process.
Jakarta is divided into 10 districts and my district, Jakarta 7, will elect 10 representatives. This means I start with a list of 120 candidates, before I pare it down to fewer than 10.
One thing about these candidates is that they are younger and inexperienced, but then we have to give them the break.
All this said, there is no doubt that the vote that counts most on April 9 is your ballot paper for the House.
My own shortlist has come down to fewer than 10 candidates. My next piece of homework is to use Google to learn more about them. Some have Facebook and Twitter accounts. You can learn a lot about their characters from their posts.
And for the next few weeks before the election, I will be watching them.
I am sure I will eliminate a few more come April 9 and I hope to be making an informed choice so I can contribute to Indonesia's democracy.
My biggest concern is that I end up eliminating all those on my shortlist. Maybe I should book that holiday to Bali.
The writer is senior editor at The Jakarta Post.
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