Supposedly, today sees the first truly democratic general election in Indonesia.
Except ..... - some areas have yet to receive a complete set of voting papers in an undamaged state. - many expectant electors will find that they have been excluded because their names aren't on the electoral register, which is based on a three year old national census. - those that are registered are unfamiliar with the new system of ticking the box of their chosen candidates, rather than punching a hole in the ballot paper. - those that have been taught the new system will have the devil's own job of finding worthy candidates because electoral campaigns have been party based, and candidates have to be elected on an individual basis. - in Jakarta, the complete list of candidates for the various legislatures was only published by the Jakarta Elections Supervisory Committee (Panwaslu) yesterday. - there are 38 parties to choose from, and an extra six in the autonomous province of Aceh. - there are almost certainly going to be allegations of vote buying and campaign infringements which will result in legal cases which will delay the final result.
Although individual candidates will be elected, thus indicating a better form of democracy - meaning that the general populace have expectations of a greater control over who represents them, few candidates have endeared themselves to the electors.
To be honest, if I had the vote here, I'd not vote for anyone who'd stuck a banner, poster or sticker anywhere on my property, although I haven't gone as far as Oigal in Kalimantan in denying advertising space to the wannabes. I'm just thankful that in this so-called cooling off period, granted so that the electorate can calmly contemplate its confusion, the vast majority of the recent visual pollution has been removed from our streets.
I seem to have missed all the election rallies in town, probably because I was in the wrong places at the right times - or should that be the other way round? Those who did attend were treated to entertainment from sensual dangdut singers, various pop groups and, thankfully, very little in the way of political posturing. The other reason for going was to be paid a nice lump sum of Rp.20,000 ($2) or even more, a T-shirt and a nutritious meal. For three weeks or so, the impoverished and underemployed have experienced some good times. Scavengers too have benefitted through clearing up the detritus of discarded water bottles.
Out of town, some farmers have been given sacks of supposedly high yield rice seed.
Megawati Sukarnoputri's PDI-P party has launched its own variety of "MSP" rice: that stands for "Mari Sejahterakan Petani" or "let's improve the welfare of farmers," but it's no coincidence those are the initials of the former president.
Not that this is going to help her.
"Whether the new rice varieties turn out to be a success or not, it will not increase electability of a party," said Sunny Tanuwidjaja, political analyst of Jakarta-based think-tank Center for Strategic and International Studies.
Despite having a good harvest with MSP rice, 55-year-old Jali, a rice farmer in Blitar, said he was not sure whether he would choose PDI-P party in this election.
"I don't really care about it. Politicians will forget us when they win the election," Jali said.
Another farmer, Maslikah, 45, said she would vote for PDI-P but probably would give MSP a miss after half her harvest failed.
(Note: Megawati's millionaire husband, Taufik Kiemas, has a vested interest in this gimmick.)
The good news is that so far there have been no serious civil disturbances among the competing campaigners. This is a hopeful sign of an increased political awareness among the electorate. Instant polls are being allowed for the first time so we should have early indications of which parties will have the right to nominate candidates for the presidential election to be held in July. I look forward to seeing loads of blue-tinged fingers, the mark of someone who has made the effort to vote. Judging by the traffic jams yesterday on the main routes out of Jakarta, many have made the effort to pulang kampung in order to do so. Or are they taking advantage of the long weekend for a break from everything including the election?
With tomorrow being Good Friday, I wish all in Indonesia a pleasant and stress-free break. ................................... Thanks to Thomas Belfield for some of the links and both the illustrations.