Actually, there are two election days here – one today for the national legislature and local offices, and a second in July to elect a new president.
The world’s third-largest democracy after India and the U.S. has 185.8 million voters eligible to cast their ballots to elect 560 legislators to the House of Representatives and more than 18,000 local councilors.
Goodies Restaurant at Smiling Hill is one of the estimated 546,000 polling stations across the country. Polls were open early in the morning and closed at 1 p.m. Vote tally at Goodies would continue until about 9 p.m., with the counts forwarded to the capital, Jakarta.
I was struck at how orderly and quiet the Goodies polling site was. Men and women wandered in all morning, registered for their ballots at one post and then waited in a sitting area until their turn to vote came up. They were then directed to the voting booths, four side-by-side areas with metal sides. Unlike in the U.S., the booths were not enclosed.
Once their ballots were completed, voters put them into four boxes, each color coded and representing national and local elections. Once their ballots were submitted, each voter then dipped their pinkie finger into a bottle of purple ink – their badge of honor and proof they voted (and also a way to keep anyone from voting more than once).
This election also determines which of the 12 Indonesian political parties can field a candidate for president in the July presidential election. A party must garner a certain percentage of the votes in the national legislative voting in order to nominate someone for president. One or two parties are expected to get the necessary votes, but other parties can combine their votes to field a candidate.
Jakarta Governor Joko “Jokowi” Widodo, of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle’s (PDI-P), is the leading presidential candidate. He is a “people’s” candidate, very progressive and attuned to the needs of the masses as opposed to the elite. His party is expected to be the big winner in the legislative elections today. His opposition will come from a former general and a politician who hails from the days of the Suharto dictatorship. There are still many Indonesians who would like a strongman president, much like Suharto, even though his rule was marred by corruption and mass killings. Go figure.
Indonesia is a young democracy, about 18 years old, and it was truly heartening to see the democratic process at work. Here is the view at the Goodies polling station: