Insight: Indonesia’s Incredible Challenge Elections
Indonesian Election Commission Office in Central Jakarta.

JAKARTA (TheInsiderStories) – On April 17, Indonesia – the world’ third most populous democracy – is holding simultaneous presidential and legislative elections for the first time. As much 192.828.520 voters, 809,500 polling stations, six million election workers, and the most complicated single-day ballot in global history.

General Election Commission reported the number of voters based on the recapitulation of male voters of 96,271,476, while women 96,557,044, both domestic and foreign. In detail, domestic voters registered for this year’s election consisted of 95,368,749 men and 95,401,580 women totaling 190,770,329.

The permanent voter list is spread across 809,500 polling stations throughout Indonesia. The details have increased from the previous number of voters namely 185,732,093 people, there are an additional 5,038,236 people.

Meanwhile, overseas, there were 902727 male voters and 1,155,464 female voters with 2,058,191 voters spread across 130 Indonesian representatives. The method of voting abroad will be done by the polling station method, mobile ballot box, and post.

The organizer will certainly provide 783 polling stations for 606,381 voters. For mobile voting boxes, 2345 ballot boxes will be provided for 638,040 voters. Then the postal method will provide 429 post points for 813,770 voters.

With around 193 million voters, 800 thousand polling stations, six million election workers, the use of a metal nail (not a pen or a machine) for voting, 1.6 million bottles of halal-certified ink and the practice of counting votes in public, it will be world’ biggest direct presidential elections and one of the most complicated single-day elections in global history.

The scale of Indonesia’ electoral process is mind-boggling, with five separate elections at once, for the president, both houses of parliament, provincial legislatures and district/city councils. There is no compulsory voting but its a national holiday to encourage a high turnout, in what Indonesians sometimes call a “festival of democracy”.

Voters will choose between incumbent Joko Widodo and longtime-rival Prabowo Subianto. They will also vote for the 575 members of Indonesia’ House of Representatives, choosing from among 16 national parties.

Voters determine who can run for president in 2019-2024. Presidential candidates must be backed by parties that control 25 percent of the votes or 20 percent of the seats. This election is over in a single day.

With presidential, parliamentary and local legislative elections all taking place on April 17, there will be more than 20,000 seats contested by more than 245,000 candidates. That’s greater than the population of Geneva.

Parliamentary Threshold

By law, political parties must ensure 4 percent of the national vote as the parliamentary threshold. Based on the national survey of Charta Politika Indonesia, which was released Thursday (04/04), of the 16 competing political parties, there were only 8 parties that had passed 4 percent of the national votes.

They are Demoraksi Indonesia Perjuangan party (25.3 percent), Gerakan Indonesia Raya (16.2 percent), Golkar (11.3 percent), Kebangkitan Bangsa (8.5 percent), Demokrat (5.2 percent), Nasdem (5.2 percent), Keadilan Sejahtera (5.0 percent). While the other 8 parties still have to try harder: Amanat Nasional party (3.3 percent), Persatuan pembangunan (2.4 percent), Solidaritas Indonesia (2.2 percent), Perindo (2.0 percent), Hanura (1.0 percent), PBB (0.5 percent), PKPI and Garuda (0.2 percent), Berkarya party (0.1 percent).

Despite the logistical challenges and the government’s poor reputation for coordination, the election commission has a surprisingly good track record of delivering fair elections, with the results ultimately accepted by politicians and the public alike. That is thanks, in part, to the unique way in which it organizes elections.

The commission will operate more than 800,000 polling stations, with each one catering to 200-300 voters. Some six million temporary election workers will be running the polling stations and many are serving the community in which they live.

Dispersing voters across so many polling stations makes it hard for anyone to systematically – and convincingly – stuff ballots in national elections.

Another important quirk is the use of metal nails for voting. Rather than mark their choice with a pen or pencil, which can lead to disputes about the validity of votes, Indonesians punch a hole in the ballot paper to select candidates (the Indonesian verb for voting, “coblos”, literally means “to punch”).

To prevent people from trying to vote in two different places, officials dip voters’ fingers in temporarily indelible ink, which is halal certified to ensure it is acceptable to the 90 percent of Indonesians who are Muslims.

Soon after polls close on election day at 1 p.m. local time, election officials will count the votes in public at each polling station, holding up every ballot paper so witnesses can see the sunlight shining through where the nail has been punched.

This open process allows opinion pollsters to carry out “quick counts”, which are based on a statistically significant sample of real votes (unlike exit polls, which are simply another survey). These quick counts have in the past usually proved reliable estimates of the final results, except where unscrupulous actors have deliberately falsified them.

At the last presidential election, in 2014, the commission also uploaded the results from each polling station to its website, allowing one group of civic-minded, tech-savvy young Indonesians to perform their own full count by uploading and collating all the data.

So while the commission can take one month to complete its full count and check, known as a recapitulation, voters should have a good indication of the results before then, and a means to see if there has been any manipulation.

The police and the military, which number over 400,000 personnel each, are banned from voting to ensure their neutrality – a stark contrast from Thailand, where the military government set the rules for the recent, highly questionable, election (The frustrating wait for Thailand’s election outcome).

It is far from a perfect process and there are often legal challenges to the results. Plenty of politicians and others try to nobble voters, despite strict electoral rules and oversight from the law enforcement agencies, civil society, and two formal election oversight bodies.

Written by Lexy Nantu, Email: