There's an election on
In fact, there's always an election on; national politicians are forever campaigning because they know that if they can appease the electorate, then there's a good chance that they can get elected again to ride the gravy train.
That holds true for most countries, because there are few politicians anywhere who are able, or willing, to stand up for what they believe in and remain consistently moral throughout their political careers. Most will follow their party's line rather than truly represent the wishes of their constituents. Others will forever be beholden to the lobbyists who have bankrolled their campaigns.
Here in Indonesia, direct elections are not yet de rigeur
. Certain 'leadership' positions, such as provincial governors and regents, with their deputies, are now answerable to an electorate of citizens. This has forced political parties to network through community based organisations, to make promises of action that will benefit the rakyat
(general public). Concerned citizens are then able to monitor the performances of their leaders.
This is a form of democracy that is new to Indonesia, a direct result of the reformasi
that has taken a tenuous hold. That a number of regents and governors have since been charged with corruption indicates that this form of democracy is workable - in places.
Elsewhere, local oligarchs and apparatchiks continue to hold sway and their constituents are beholden to the markets they control.
A general election campaign started on Saturday. It will run for nine months until April 9th next year and will be contested by 34 political parties, a number still subject to drop outs and drop ins. The electorate will cast their votes for the parties rather than members of parliament and although the campaign period has started, the General Elections Commission (KPU) has yet to publish the lists of candidates. Those who do end up in the House of Representatives (DPR) will have done so if their party has reached a threshold of 2.5% of the votes cast nationally
This may mean that as few as five political parties will end up with members of parliament, thus disenfranchising a high percentage of the electorate. It must also be borne in mind that, as I've noted elsewhere, members of parliament are expected to contribute to their party's coffers; the more you contribute pre-election, the higher up the candidates' list you are placed. This system obviously perpetuates the rampant corruption in the House of Representatives (DPR).
Fellow Jakarta blogger Rob Baiton has also posted on this topic
and argues that every elector has a responsibility to cast his or her vote.In the Indonesian context it is disrespectful to the many people who fought and died for the right to live free in a functioning democracy. If you are not going to engage in the democratic process of elections then why complain when you end up with the status quo.
My argument is that if you do or don't engage in this process, one that is not truly democratic, then you have every right to complain because you always
end up with the status quo.
Whilst I agree that having the right to vote is the mark of a democracy, a system which is notionally the fairest and certainly worth fighting for, not using your right to vote is also a political statement which is perfectly valid in a democracy.
Rob and I do not have the right to vote in Indonesia, although our wives do. I used my vote in the UK, but I do not think I have ever voted for the winning candidate. In my early adulthood I generally voted for the Labour Party and was on the management committee of my local party in London. We lost that general election to the Conservative Party, popularly known as the Tories. A few years later I was active in the then Ecology Party, now Green Party. Again, no-one I voted for was ever elected, although what we fought for then are noe very mainstream.
I've always believed that politics is not just about elections. I have voted, once, for a local councillor who was a member of the Tory Party, the party of bigotry and big business
and the comfortable middle classes, a political party I have loathed all my life. However, she was only concerned with representing the aspirations of we local residents, and she'd earned our respect over many years of selfless work.
So, to vote or not to vote is a matter of personal choice. Not voting when you have the right to do so is known in Indonesia as Golput, the abbreviation of golongan putih
(white group). Other choices include tactical voting against the party you don't want to win and spoiling the ballot paper.
I contend that all options, if done sincerely with the democratic process in mind, are valid.
After all, whoever you vote for, the government always gets in.