Tens of millions of Indonesians nationwide went to the polls on Wednesday to cast their ballots in parliamentary elections, with the vote coming ahead of a July presidential election in which the yet-to-be-chosen lawmakers will play a crucial role. With some 186 million eligible voters nationwide, the electorate of the world’s third-largest democracy has indicated in opinion polls leading up to Wednesday’s election that voters are looking for a departure from past governments that have appeared unwilling, or unable, to curb the corruption for which Indonesia is notorious. After speaking to more than a dozen Indonesian citizens this week in the capital Jakarta, this reporter found that the pre-poll surveying appeared to be borne out in attitudes on the street. “At first, I hesitated over whether to vote or not. But finally, I made up my mind—that I have to exercise my right to vote because it may be a good chance to push for change somehow,” said Arri Palapa, a 37-year-old resident of Jakarta who runs a small online business selling cosmetics. “I look at Indonesia and I’m sick of seeing Indonesia moving forward to nowhere.
“I think members of the PDI-P [Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle] have the potential to provide good leaders as role models for a better future for Indonesia. Jokowi is part of the PDI-P. He has been appointed by the PDI-P to be elected as president. So, I believe he can lead the party toward a better leadership,” said Palapa, who nonetheless declined to reveal which party he would be voting for on Wednesday.
Joko Widodo, better known by his nickname Jokowi, is the current governor of Jakarta and the frontrunner for the Indonesian presidency, which will be decided in July. He is not running for any elected seat in Wednesday’s poll.
The Indonesian president is directly elected, but only after being nominated by parties in the legislature, which must win at least 20 percent of seats outright, form a coalition representing that percentage of seats won, or have taken 25 percent of seats in the previous election, in order to put forward a presidential candidate. That means the political fate of the wildly popular governor of Jakarta is tied to the results of Wednesday’s elections.