The Jakarta Post
Ninety-percent of registered voters in the Kanto region of Japan showed up at a polling place in Tokyo on Sunday, while the closing time was extended to accommodate hundreds of eligible voters who had not registered in advance.
As of 9 p.m. local time, or two hours after the original closing time, at least 300 people, most of them students and first-time voters, were still waiting in line in the compound of Balai Indonesia multifunction hall in Meguro, Tokyo, to get a line number ticket before moving to another line to cast their ballot.
“We’ve been in the line for five hours,” said first-time voter Irma. “Many of us have given up and gone home but I will not lose my chance to vote because, like they say, each vote matters.”
Similar to Irma, her fellow student Irvan said he didn’t mind the long hours of waiting because he’d been closely following all issues surrounding the presidential and legislative election including the candidate debates and was determined to exercise his voting right.
“I’m excited, so it’s OK,” said Irvan. “We don’t want to live with regret if we give up our vote,” chimed in another friend, Tasya.
According to the head of the Overseas Election Committee (PPLN) for Kanto region, Makmur Lubis, 90 percent of 1,208 voters registered to cast ballots at the polling place had showed up by 4 p.m. “There should be more but we have yet to verify the final numbers.”
It was a record showing, with the voter turnout in the 2014 election hovering around 75 percent. Initially, the committee had lowered its expectations due to the change in election system and, therefore, shorter time to prepare and disseminate information.
“We are surprised that a bigger crowd of voters showed up. We think there are many factors at play, but mainly because this time around there are only two pairs of candidates, which makes voters more firm with their decision.”
In 2014, the General Elections Commission (KPU) recorded that only 464,458 or 22 percent of about 2 million registered overseas voters cast their ballot in the legislative election, while the turnout was higher for the presidential election at 33 percent.
This year, there are 16,799 voters listed for Kanto region, including the Greater Tokyo Area and seven prefectures, of which 80 percent chose to cast their ballots via mail. A drop box was also available at the polling place.
According to Lubis, there were around 300 extra voters, including tourists and around 800 who had not registered – falling in the special voter list (DPK).
Business student Evelin, also a first-time voter, decided to leave the polling place after five hours. "I came by bicycle and it would take another hour to reach my place. I can only blame myself for not registering in advance. I've been busy with my studies and did not come with my friends to register during an Indonesian event late last year."
Panji, an intern in Nakano for the last six months, said he had come as early as 8 a.m. and decided to leave at 7 p.m. "I really want to participate in the election, but time is the constraint because I have to work in the morning."
Another polling place is in Osaka, which covers 17 prefectures with over 6,500 registered voters.
When contacted via phone at 5 p.m., committee head in Osaka, Anung Wibowo, said hundreds of voters were also still waiting in line.
The vote count will be held simultaneously on April 17.