March 14, 2019 23:16:00
Millions of Indonesians without identity cards are predicted to be excluded from voting. (Supplied: Kompas/Kristianto Purnomo)
More than 100 foreign nationals have been blacklisted from Indonesia‘s electoral roll after the country’s General Election Commission (KPU) found they were erroneously enrolled to cast ballots in 17 provinces across the archipelago.
Some supporters of Opposition Leader Prabowo Subianto, who has frequently accused incumbent President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo of being too close to Beijing, seized on the case of the Chinese national to argue there were elements of electoral fraud taking place.
Incidents like these are just one of the problems likely to plague the upcoming Indonesian general election, where more than 187 million eligible voters in the world’s third-largest democracy will choose both their president and members of parliament on April 17.
It also highlights the ongoing struggle to tackle misinformation and hoaxes amid what many observers see as a period of democratic stagnation.
It is tough competition for the up to 8,000 candidates who will fight for 575 seats in the House of Representatives and the tens of thousands who are running for the 19,817 seats on the provincial, regency, and city level legislative councils — but researchers are already warning that ongoing vote buying presents a major hurdle to democracy in the country.
Professor Edward Aspinall from the Australian National University told the ABC that many voters in Indonesia cast their vote based on much more immediate considerations, such as money to fulfil their ne.
Johannes, not his real name, said voters were paid Rp 250,000 ($25) each in exchange for their votes.
“The strategy had been effective,” he said.
‘Democracy for sale’: Vote buying a democracy killer
Up to 8,000 candidates will fight for 575 seats in the House of Representatives. (Flickr: Jasmine Halki)
Professor Aspinall said practices such as vote buying, influence peddling and skimming money from government projects were rife across the archipelago, and dubbed it as “democracy for sale” for his forthcoming book.
He also said vote buying was more prevalent and effective in islands outside of Java, where economic power is much more concentrated.
“[But] now they’re happening at the same time, so there’s going to be a lot more overlap.”
Professor Aspinall found while payments for votes were likely to be higher for local elections, it was not effective for capturing votes if there was also social pressure from influential religious, cultural or government figures in the community.
A separate research project by Burhanuddin Muhtadi, a lecturer at Universitas Islam Negeri Syarif Hidayatullah Jakarta, found that during elections in the period between 2006 and 2016, roughly a third of 800,000 respondents said they had been given cash or other items in exchange for votes.
Professor Aspinall, who conducted his research with a focus on the last presidential and parliamentary elections in 2014 — which saw the same candidates, Mr Widodo and Mr Subianto, face off — said little had changed in the lead-up to the upcoming election.
“Basically, the system remains the same,” he said.
Millions of ‘ghost votes’ popping up across the nation
But the e-KTP scheme itself had been marred by a corruption scandal in which senior politicians embezzled some Rp 2.3 trillion ($227 million), with former parliamentary speaker Setya Novanto given a sentence of 15 years for his role in stealing taxpayer money.
As a result, millions of Indonesians are yet to receive their cards.
The Alliance of Indigenous Peoples of the Archipelago (AMAN) said that until late 2018, roughly 1.6 million indigenous Indonesians might have been excluded from voting in the April election because they did not have an e-KTP.
Indonesians will choose the president and their representatives in the parliament on the same day for the first time. (ABC News: Max Walden)
Papuans have historically voted using the “noken system”, whereby local communities reached decisions about voting by consensus rather than cast votes individually.
More broadly, bureaucratic errors in the voter registration system have also resulted in some individuals having two identities across the country.
“Candidates often talk about the huge amount of money that they have to invest in order to be elected.
The KPU was contacted by the ABC for comment but did not respond.
March 14, 2019 12:17:05