Editor’s note: Arif Nurul Imam, an Indonesian political analyst and director of IndoStrategy Research and Consulting, wrote this piece exclusively for Tuoi Tre News ahead of the April 17 General Election in Indonesia.
Indonesia is the third largest democracy in the world after India and the United States. As a democratic country, general elections are democratic rituals and obligatory procedures that are routinely held every five years.
The General Election scheduled for April 17 is the first time the legislative election and presidential election will be held on the same day in Indonesia’s history.
Approximately 193 million voters will exercise their rights to vote on up to 805,000 voting booths. There are tens of millions of people involved, both as organizers and supervisors from the central level to polling stations.
This simultaneous election has been a colossal political party since Indonesia stood. At the same time, voters flocked to the polling stations to channel their political aspirations in the voting booth.
On the level of procedural democracy, Indonesia can be referred to as a successful example of the implementation of democratic procedures, especially in carrying out electoral rituals.
Most complicated election
This event is the first time in the history of Indonesian democracy when citizens have the right to vote the president and vice president, as well as select members of local and national legislative and senatorial members simultaneously on the same day.
Therefore, there are five ballots that must be punched by each voter at the polling station. Yellow ballot papers for the House of Representatives of the Republic of Indonesia (DPR RI), blue for the Provincial House of Representatives (DPRD), green for the District/Municipality House of Representatives, red for the Regional Representative Council (DPD) as an element of regional representatives is often called a senator. The last gray color ballot paper is for the President and Vice President.
As the election is held simultaneously, the number of voters is quite large; it is not strange that there will be a lot of technical difficulties from election socialization, implementation, to its monitoring.
That is why it is not wrong to say that the 2019 elections in Indonesia are the most complicated in the world. This simultaneous election will certainly become the attention of all citizens of Indonesia, and will even be seen by the international community.
However, this complexity does not necessarily become a serious threat that will disrupt the election.
This is because technically, these problems have been anticipated by conducting socialization and simulation of voting procedures carried out by election organizers and civil society organizations that are concerned with issues of democracy.
Presidential election outshines legislative election
Even though the legislative election and presidential election are to be held at the same time, there is an inequality on the political stage: the focus of both political elites and general society are on the presidential election, making political issues around the legislative election sink.
Political discourse that has emerged on the surface or in public discussions highlights more the contestation of the presidential election, where there are two pairs of presidential and vice-presidential candidates: Joko Widodo-Makruf Amin and Prabowo Subianto-Sandiaga Uno.
The candidate pair of Joko Widodo-Makruf Amin, carrying the tagline Indonesia Maju, is being promoted by an “elephant” coalition that includes Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDIP), Golongan Karya Party (Golkar), National Awakening Party (PKB), United Development Party (PPP),Nasdem Party, Hanura Party, Indonesian Justice and Unity Party (PKPI), Crescent Star Party (PBB), and two newcomers: Perindo Party and Indonesian Solidarity Party (PSI).
In the meantime, the other candidate pair, Prabowo Subianto-Sandiaga Uno, carrying the tagline Indonesia Adil Makmur, is being promoted by Gerindra Party, Democratic Party, National Mandate Party (PAN), Prosperous Justice Party (PKS), and Working Party.
Such political polarization is unavoidable so the political dynamics of the presidential election has become heated and fierce. Moreover this is a "repeat duel" of the 2014 presidential election so, inevitably, the public has highlighted this contest between the pairs.
The presidential election drew people's attention so that it became public discussion of both the elite and lower classes. However, it must be admitted that the enthusiasm of the people towards the presidential election was not directly proportional to the enthusiasm highlighting the implementation of legislative elections.
Now let’s talk about the legislative election to elect candidates for members of the Republic of Indonesia Parliament, Provincial DPRD, Municipal DPR and candidates for the Regional Representative Council (DPD).
Twenty political parties, including 16 national political parties and four local political parties in Aceh Province, will contest to win voter support. Also, there are tens of thousands of prospective legislative members at all levels, as well as potential members of the DPD.
The legislative election seems to be drowned indeed by the more exciting, fiercer, and more uproarious presidential contest. Themes that should appear on the surface, such as debate about the vision and mission of political parties and legislative candidates regarding how Indonesia should be projected, almost disappear from the stage of public discussion.
|Indonesia's incumbent presidential candidate addresses to supporters during a campaign rally at Gelora Bung Karno stadium in Jakarta, Indonesia, April 13, 2019 in this photo taken by Antara Foto. Photo: Reuters|
Since the reform era, Indonesia has had plenty of experience in holding direct elections. It's just that, for simultaneous elections this is the first experience. However, we are optimistic that this simultaneous election will take place safely and smoothly.
Although procedural democracy has been noted as successful and great, it does not mean democracy in Indonesia is perfect. There is some homework that still needs to be refined, both procedurally and substantially.
Moreover, based on The Economist Intelligence (EIU) data, Indonesia's 2018 democracy ranks 68th or a 20-rank free fall from the 48th place in 2016. Data Freedom House also mentions the emergence of the threat to civil liberties, pushing Indonesia down from the status of “free state" to become “partially free” in 2018.
This issue is still a challenge in the future. Democracy in Indonesia is not only successful in procedural terms but it can be a substantial one, namely the realization of justice and prosperity. Hopefully.