ANI Photo | Indonesia goes to polls tomorrow as it seeks to enter new phase amid concerns

Amid concerns regarding the cost of living and human rights, Indonesia will go to the polls tomorrow, as it aims to enter a new phase in politics after President Joko Widodo has completed his maximum term as president.
The people will elect not only a new president and vice president but also parliamentary and local representatives – in the world’s largest single-day election, according to Al Jazeera.
More than 204 million of Indonesia’s 270 million people are registered to vote, and while voting is not compulsory, election day is a public holiday so turnout is generally high – 81 per cent at the last election in 2019, according to Indonesia’s General Election Commission.
There are 18 national political parties across Indonesia, with 575 parliamentary seats up for grabs.
Incumbent Indonesian president, Joko Widodo, popularly known as ‘Jokowi’, has completed the maximum two terms in office, so this year’s election will mark the first change in leadership in 10 years.
Even Sembiring, the director of the Indonesian Forum for Environment in Riau (WALHI Riau) described the election as an “opportunity for healing” for Indonesian voters and “an important moment of potential to restore Indonesia for the next five years”.
There are three presidential and vice presidential pairings vying for the top jobs including a former military general, a one-time academic and a self-professed “man of the people”.
Among other major candidates contesting the polls, Prabowo Subianto (72), former military strongman and Indonesia’s current defence minister is running for the top job for a third time, having lost to Jokowi in 2014 and 2019, Al Jazeera reported.
However, Prabowo has long been criticised for his time in the military and has been accused of, but never charged with, the kidnappings of more than 20 pro-democracy activists at the end of the 1990s, about a dozen of whom have never been found.
He has also been accused of human rights abuses in East Timor and Papua and was discharged from the military in 1998 and banned from entering the United States until 2020, after he became defence minister under Jokowi.
His running mate, 36-year-old Gibran Rakabuming Raka, is also considered a “controversial” candidate, as per Al Jazeera.
Prabowo is the head of Gerindra, a nationalist, right-wing populist political party, and has the backing of a coalition of other parties including Golkar and the National Mandate Party (PAN).
Although Prabowo and Gibran do not have Jokowi’s explicit endorsement, as the incumbent president is supposed to remain neutral, they are seen as the “continuity” candidates.
Prabowo has also said he plans to build three million new homes in rural, coastal and urban areas, and launch a free lunch programme for schoolchildren in a policy designed to combat stunting.
Another major candidate, Ganjar Pranowo is the 55-year-old former governor of Central Java and is a member of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), considered a “secular nationalist political party” that backed Jokowi for the presidency in 2014 and 2019 and is led by Megawati Sukarnoputri, the daughter of Indonesia’s first president, Sukarno, Al Jazeera reported.
Ganjar is running with 66-year-old Mahfud MD, the former coordinating minister for political, legal and security affairs, and the candidates also have the support of the United Development Party (PPP), the People’s Conscience Party (Hanura) and the Indonesian Unity Party (Perindo).
Ganjar and Mahfud have pitched themselves as “two men of humble origins” who understand the people of Indonesia.
They claim travelling the length and breadth of the country to listen to the concerns of ordinary Indonesians, and have run a campaign based on improving their lives, partly through the wider distribution of social assistance under a programme known as KTP Sakti.
They have also pledged to raise salaries for civil servants, teachers and lecturers.
Former Governor of Jakarta, Anies Baswedan is running as an independent and “opposition” candidate in the election. The 54-year-old studied in the US, entered academia and later went into politics as education minister.
But, he sparked controversy when he ran for the governorship of Jakarta in 2017 and was accused of using identity politics against his rival Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, popularly known as Ahok, who ended up jailed for blasphemy.
Anies’s running mate Muhaimin Iskandar, 57, is the deputy speaker of the People’s Representative Council and the leader of the National Awakening Party (PKB), the largest Muslim political party in Indonesia. They are also backed by the NasDem party and another Muslim party, the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS), as per Al Jazeera.
Anies and Muhaimin are running on a promise to make Indonesia “just and prosperous” by, among other things, building 40 new cities across the country and cancelling Jokowi’s plan for Nusantara.
They have also pledged to promote equal opportunities for small business owners in order to create more jobs across Indonesia.
However, Indonesians’ main concern continues to remain the cost of living and being able to provide for themselves and their families.
Economic growth slowed to 5.05 per cent in 2023 compared with 5.3 per cent the year before, mostly as a result of weak exports and lower commodity prices, Al Jazeera reported citing Statistics Indonesia.
With people under 40 making up about half the total number of registered voters, employment is a key concern.
According to Statistics Indonesia, the unemployment rate in August 2023 was 5.32 percent and the average monthly wage across Indonesia was 3.18 million rupiahs (USD 203).
As per Al Jazeera, other issues include human rights and democratic decline in Indonesia, with student protests flaring across university campuses in recent weeks as staff and students at some of Indonesia’s largest and most prominent universities including Gadjah Mada University in Yogyakarta and Universitas Indonesia have spoken out about the need for fair and transparent elections
On February 14, polling stations across Indonesia’s three time zones will open at 7 am and close at 1 pm.
All voters over the age of 17 will be given five different ballot papers to choose presidential and vice presidential candidates, as well as representatives at national, provincial, regional, and regency and city levels. Depending on the area, some polling stations are likely to see long queues as voters turn out early in an effort to escape the searing Indonesian heat that builds throughout the day.
In the voting booth, people make their choice by piercing the ballot paper with a nail in a process known as “coblos” which means “to punch”. It is felt that using a nail to punch a hole in the ballot paper makes it harder to manipulate votes, as reported by Al Jazeera.
Votes are counted in public at polling stations, with the paper ballots held up so everyone can see the light shining through the pierced hole as the names of the chosen candidates are read aloud. Once they have voted, every voter dips their little finger in indelible ink to guard against casting multiple votes.
Meanwhile, the process at the polling stations will be overseen by about seven million election officials and independent workers.
In a stark fact, more than 890 election workers died following the exhaustive polls in 2019.
There are more than 8,20,000 polling stations across Indonesia, an archipelago made up of some 17,000 islands, and the count starts as soon as voting closes.
Many polling stations use a “quick count” – based on a sampling method – to give an early indication of where things are headed.
A preliminary result from the elections commission is likely to be announced on the evening of February 14, but the official result could take as long as 35 days, because many things depends on whether the vote is close, Al Jazeera reported.
Any legal complaints by any of the candidates involved, including the three sets of presidential and vice presidential hopefuls, will need to be filed within 35 days of the election.
On his previous two outings, Prabowo challenged the result through Indonesia’s Constitutional Court
Among the voters, about 52 per cent of registered voters are under the age of 40, and about a third of the total are under the age of 30, making the “youth vote” an important one.
This year, 49.91 per cent of registered voters are male and 50.09 per cent are female.
Members of the Indonesian police and the military are banned from voting.
Presidential candidates need 50 per cent of the overall vote and at least 20 per cent of votes in each province in order to claim victory. Political parties need four per cent of the vote in order to enter parliament.
Al Jazeera reported citing several Indonesian pollsters, Prabowo is leading the polls, although he continues to hover close to the 50 per cent mark, meaning that he may not be able to claim an outright win in the first round.
If no single candidate passes the 50 per cent threshold, the top two candidate pairs will go into a second and final round on June 26. The new president will take oath in October.

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