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Jakarta Post

Your letters: '€˜Festival Demokrasi'€™

  • The Jakarta Post

    The Jakarta Post

  /   Fri, July 18, 2014   /  11:27 am

I left the taxi with a beaming smile. The driver'€™s parting salutation, after our spirited conversation and my Sundanese thank you of Hatur nuhun Pak, was '€œAyo [come on] Jokowi!'€ It was all I needed to launch into the day feeling completely confident.

I met my companion just before 8 a.m. and we walked with our usual swift stride toward the polling station (TPS) where he would vote, with just a little extra pep in our steps. It was still early and there was no one there except the officials.

The scene was extremely different to polling stations in my home country, Australia, and I relished every part: the officials'€™ uniforms of black shirts and hastily-tied blangkon [Javanese male headwear], the scrawled entry sign hanging from a potted plant, the big silver boxes and the bright smile of a female witness when she noticed me. I was desperate to take photos of my companion as he voted then dipped his pinky in ink, but I wanted to remain respectful and regrettably I hesitated. It was a beautiful moment for me, having followed the lead-up to the election for almost a year and having lived in Bandung since January.

As we strode away in search of coffee I stopped and clasped his hands. '€œThank you. That was very special,'€ I said earnestly, my eyes pricking with tears. As a foreigner who has fallen in love with Indonesia, the opportunity to experience the world'€™s third-largest democracy elect a president who heralds change was unforget-table. For the next five hours we wandered the beautiful tree-lined streets of Bandung in search of TPS. At each one we found a quiet, peaceful scene of children playing and adults queuing, though due to the vast numbers of stations the lines were never long '€” I told my companion about queuing for two hours in the searing sun for an Australian Capital Territory election. Because of Ramadhan, the atmosphere at each TPS and on the streets was naturally subdued.

'€œFasting makes it a very different game!'€ remarked my companion. I vowed to be in Indonesia for this day in five years when the election is set be held in April alongside the legislative elections. Just after 1 p.m. we joined a crowd of about 50 adults and children gathered at a Subdistrict Polling Committee (PPS). We were just in time for the count. I had no idea the votes were counted publically and in such entertaining fashion! The big silver box was emptied and displayed to the crowd to ensure no votes remained, and then the fun began.

A young man in a peci cap declared each vote into the microphone '€” Nomor satu sah! Nomor dua sah! (Number 1 valid! Number two valid!) '€” in a dramatic baritone, causing the sound to distort and everyone to wince. As I winced simultaneously with a female official we shared a glowing grin. Though members of the crowd were not united in preference, they were excited and elated to be participating in the extraordinary event. It was this politics-transcending shared sentiment that moved me most and made me fall even deeper in love with Indonesia.

As a foreigner from a country where voting is compulsory and therefore a '€œchore'€ for many, I felt truly blessed to be part of this historic Festival Demokrasi (Democratic festival). Just as I did to hold my souvenir copy of The Jakarta Post'€™s July 10 edition, with its beautiful cover image and stirring headline: A people'€™s victory.

Julia Winterflood
Bandung

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