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Indonesia NO VoteWell, it would seem that Indonesia will have elections yet again. They are scheduled to take place on 9 July 2014. They will, hopefully, elect a new president… and their political landscape will never again be the same…yadda…yadda…yadda. Boring stuff. Then why? Why make an article out of it?

Good question.

It is not what's in the election that interests us, but what's left out of it; or more precisely, 34 parties. Sure, according to Indonesian law all these 34 parties failed in at least one of the following requirements:

  • One branch in every province
  • One branch in at least 75% of the regencies or municipalities in every province
  • One branch in at least 50% of the districts in every regency or municipality
  • 1,000 registered members
  • 1/3 of party candidates must be female

Sure, we only want "representative" parties in the electoral process, not fly-by-night operations; not even if they represent actual people's wishes.

Sure, we only want "widespread" parties, not ones that represent local concerns.

Sure, we want at least 1/3 of candidates to be female, regardless of their capabilities.

And so they "weed out" 34 parties or 76% of them. That's OK since they probably represent the vast minority of the population, although, we shall never know.

But that's OK, since people who would otherwise have voted any of the banned 34 will now have the opportunity to vote for any of the other 12, regardless of their desires.

But that's OK because whoever wins the race will represent all the people who would otherwise have voted for any of the banned 34, regardless of their wishes.

Fair is fair.

This is a democracy, dammit!

We have to have legitimacy!

But we can go a step further. The fact there are 46 legal political parties in Indonesia is a red flag for the democratic system. It indicates, no, scratch that, it screams that that people want to have their way, not the other guy's (or gal) way. Alas, this won't be possible because in a perverse twist of legalisms, the electoral law is set up in such a manner that it is almost impossible to obtain a majority vote, which implies that all governments must be coalitions by definition. This in term guarantees that decisions will be taking by commissions seeking consensus which in political terms means stagnation.

That's right folks!

Indonesia is one of the few countries where political stagnation is pretty much written into the law! Hurray for those brave legislators that had the courage to make public, visible and enforceable what in any other country in the world would be a bad outcome.

That's politics for you.

But let's keep going. Let's see what Indonesians have to say about their wonderful political system and their right to vote. Take a look at the picture below.

Indonesia - Voter Turnout

The Blue line is the turnout, this is, people who actually bother going to vote.

The Red line is the percentage of invalid votes, this is, people who went to vote and deliberately made their vote invalid.

The Green line is Blue minus Red, this is, true believers. Hummm….. it all started in 1970 under a dictatorship until 1999 when Indonesia was finally freed. Since then, the number of disillusioned people continues to grow. In 2009 it stood at about 55%. What a far cry from an initial 95%!

Things are getting so bad, that in 2009 and now again in 2014 the Indonesian Council of Ulema (the highest Islamic authority in the country) issued a fatwa (decree) declaring golput (or spoiling votes) as haram (or forbidden). Nobody listens.

How is it possible that within 15 years of finally! getting free elections, only about 55% of the population still believes in democracy? What happened to the other 40%?

What happened to the other 40% is the same thing that happened to the other 34 political parties that won't be allowed to represent people. They were denied their own sovereign decisions over their own lives. People in Indonesia has started to realize that politicians are useless because they:

Do not represent anybody but themselves

Do not bring positive change

Good for them!

Lastly, let's take a quick look at numbers. Indonesian population in 2009 was about 240 million with 121 million registered votes (or 50% of the population) but of this, only about 55% contributed to elect a president or 27.5% in total. And there you have it, dear reader. A glorious 27.5% of the entire Indonesian population determined what the other 72.5% must do. Glorious indeed…not!

Indonesians are evolving rapidly and this is good for them, but, more importantly, it is good for everybody else. With disappointment comes consensus and self-reliance. People are beginning to wake up and realize that getting to democracy from dictatorships is not exactly heaven and that their lives are still in control of somebody else. Indonesians have started to realize that the only way to win is not to play. No Taxation and No Representation indeed; good for them!

Note: please see the Glossary if you are unfamiliar with certain words.


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