Lessons From Indonesia

Written by Akhyari Hananto Administrator at GNFI
Share this
2 replies

By Elmi Rizal Alias 

JAKARTA (Bernama) — The recent general election in Indonesia provided a new perspective of the electoral process in the world’s third biggest democracy after India and the European Union.

Unlike in Malaysia, the experience one undergoes during the election process to choose parliamentarians and local representatives is something totally different, laid back, simple and orderly.

This is a stark contrast with the firebrand politics adopted by some of the contesting parties and the hostilities involving rival political groups.

On April 9 on the balloting day, this writer had the opportunity to go around Jakarta and witness the balloting process to elect a president for the 2014-2019 term.

Based on the observation it was obvious that it was a simple process conducted in a merriment and friendly atmosphere.

In Indonesia, the ballot papers are punctured using a nail something different from Malaysia where the voters draw a cross on their choice.

Furthermore, like seen in Malaysia for the first time during the 13th general election in 2013, in ensuring no one votes more than once, one of the fingers are marked with indelible dark blue ink. Indonesians dip their little finger into the ink while Malaysians have the ink applied on their index fingers.


This time around it is the 11th election for the republic since achieving independence and the fourth since the reformation that ended the autocratic regime of President Suharto in 1998.

Indonesia has a big population, 230 million people and in the 2014 election there were 186 million eligible voters whose ballot would elect 560 legislators and more than 18,000 local administrators. They voted at 545,791 voting centres throughout Indonesia.

A quick count conducted by the Lembaga Lingkaran Survei Indonesia (LSI) on Thursday, placed Parti Demokrasi Indonesia Perjuangan PDI-P at the top of the ladder with 19.77 percent of the votes going to the party, followed by Parti Golkar (14.61), Gerakan Indonesia Raya (Gerindra – 11.80) while the ruling party, Demokrat, is at the fourth place with 9.73 percent of the votes.

There were numerous small parties that accumulated about 40 percent of the total votes and they could serve as the king makers in coming up with a presidential candidate.


The official outcome of the 2014 election is to be announced between 7 and 9 May.

And on election campaigns, the Indonesian Election Commission allowed a 21-day campaign trail and all campaign logistic movements had to cease three days before the balloting date.

This campaign free period is to enable the public to decide on their candidate or the party of their choice after digesting all the promises made by the political parties.

This writer’s observation during the campaign period indicated that the atmosphere was cordial and relatively calm with those at the voting centres free from intimidation or fear.

No one was seen soliciting for votes and neither was there any tents or shelters set up by the parties outside the polling booths.


There were no provocations. No one carried any party symbols during balloting. While in Malaysia the whole town is pasted and festooned with party flags and symbols, in Indonesia the candidate list and party symbols were only pasted at the voting centres as a guide to the voters.

Numerous locations like parks, private homes and shop houses were converted into polling stations and there were some sense of merriment in the areas around with mini concerts and stalls selling food.

Unlike in Malaysia where the ballot boxes are uniform in shape and size and made of transparent material, in Indonesia the ballot boxes could be just cardboard boxes or metal boxes much to the surprise of the outsiders.

Also no policemen, army personnel or thugs employed by parties can be seen at the polling centres and the balloting process goes on with the full trust of the people.

And interestingly anyone could enter the polling centre without any permit or special permission, a far cry from Malaysia’s tightly guarded polling centres.


Despite of the huge number of voters and a challenging political landscape its is hard to believe that the voting process takes place seamlessly.

In fact, Malaysia’s Election Commission Chairman Tan Sri Abdul Aziz Mohd Yusof praised the way the election was conducted in Indonesia something which he described as a ‘democratic fest’.

Abdul Aziz who was in Indonesia as an observer for the election said conducting an election in a country with 230 million people was no easy task.

“There are things that we can learn from them in conducting elections,” he said.

As for example, Abdul Aziz said the three day campaign free period before voting helped to calm down both the parties and the voters.

“In Malaysia there is the campaign free period (one day before polling until vote count is over). Yet many fail to adhere to this. If only everyone follows the rules, I believe chaos can be avoided,” he said.

“There could be some shortcomings, as for example the voting process in Indonesia is not that systematic, but there is some positive points when compared with Malaysia,” he added.

More than anything else, they did not show any hostility among them, kept their emotions in control, and saw the balloting as their duty to their country.

The next stage of the presidential election on July 9 is definitely more interesting as they will go all out to choose the leader for the next five years.

It not that the Malaysian electoral system is not up to mark, but there are still things to learn and improve so that the election goes on smoothly truly reflecting the democratic principles upheld by Malaysians.



Though the election in Indonesia went on smoothly without any hitches, in spite of the huge number of voters, parties with contrasting ideologies and the logistical challenge across the archipelago, there is one problem – the number of those who forgo their right to vote has seen a steady rise over the years.

This group of people are known here as Golput(golongan putih) and their numbers at each election are staggering, beyond Malaysia’s population of 30 million.

In 1999, the Golput represented 10.21 percent of total number of eligible voters then, in 2004 (23.34) and 2009 (29.01). This is a stark contrast under the old order (1955, 1971, 1977, 1982, 1987, 1992, and 1997) where the Golput number never exceeded 10 percent.

Though the political observers had anticipated higher voter turnout due to the Jokowi effect, due to the popularity of the PDI-P’s candidate Joko Widodo, and the edict from the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) that pointed out Muslims have to exercise their voting rights, the number of people who fail to turn up to vote remain high.

A poll conducted by Cyrus Network in collaboration with the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) indicated that in the recent election about 45 million (24.8 percent) from the 185 million voters failed to vote.


The lack of trust on politicians, at the legislature and local councils, is one of the reasons for this high delinquent rate.

The people in general feel that the elected representatives were out of touch with the grassroots, and they were seen as the puppets of the government and not those who would look after their fate.

The elected representatives too often have poor reputation, they were seen as corrupt and lived in luxury while the people lived in poverty.

The people have lost faith in the so called democracy and elections especially when it had failed to come up with credible leaders, leaders who were seen as statesmen, honest, trustworthy, just and the one with people in their hearts.


A researcher with LSI, Rully Akbar noted there were several factors for the Golput predicament though the people now were more aware of their rights and the country’s politics.

“Firstly it is about administration. Those who do not have the voter card cannot cast their vote. Secondly there are technical reasons…people have no time to vote or the time is inconvenient and etc.

“Thirdly it is all about politics. There is a mistrust on the election process including in the people behind the election machinery. Lastly, they do not know who to choose and therefore decide not to vote,” he said.

In the 2009 election, many of those who did not want to vote in fact spoilt their votes fearing that their vote would be used by unscrupulous parties to manipulate the election results.

As for an observer who goes by one name, Nabieh, the number of Golput in the next stage in July 9 would go down, as it is more about choosing the individual than the party unlike in the April election.

At present the political parties are working out ways to come up with their respective presidential and vice presidential candidates.

If there is a good and credible pairing, definitely more will want to vote and the Golput number will go down.


  • Get Livefyre
  • FAQ

Kota Pati sejak 7 Augustus 1323,. mungkin judulnya dikoreksi jadi kota besar tertua di Indonesia.. eh tapi kok ada magelang ya...


@GNFI kota Salatiga min 24 Juli 750 M id.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kota_Sala…