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Indonesia: I Was Denied My Right To Vote

Feb. 15, 2017

Today, I was denied my right to vote by my country.

Being a 17 year old in Indonesia means that you are a legal adult and you now can vote. I am 17 years old. This was supposed to be my first time voting. But I couldn’t vote.

I was so proud and excited to vote because this is the year where there was actually a candidate who was hardworking, honest and competent that I could vote for. Indonesia is plagued by government officers who are corrupt. The only reason why most Indonesians want to work for the government is to steal money from the government. That was the norm. That still is the norm.

However, for the past few years there has been changes in the country. First, we saw a person that was Joko Widodo, a.k.a. Jokowi. He became governor of Jakarta and his deputy was Basuki Tjahjapurnama, popularly known as Ahok.

Jakarta, the city that was known for the stench wafting from its clogged up sewers. Jakarta, the city that was known for its annual great floods. Jakarta, the city that was known for its poor who lived in completely horrible conditions. During Jokowi’s reign, we started to see changes, improvements.

Then, Jokowi became president before he could finish his term and Ahok stepped up as governor. The improvements became more drastic and significant. The rivers can now flow. Jakarta is seeing no signs of a flood this year. The poor have been relocated to live in much more live-able flats. Jakarta is now not the complete shithole it used to be.

Corruption has decreased dramatically, thanks to Ahok’s work as governor, with help from Jokowi’s work as president. Ahok’s way of governing is completely transparent. The people have access to every program and especially to see where their taxes are going to. He made it a lot more difficult to steal money from the government. A lot of taxpayers are happy because they are finally seeing their money put into good use instead of going into the pockets of government officials.

The government officials, however, are not happy about this. Politicians are not happy about this because suddenly, less money is going into their pockets and they are no longer as wealthy as they used to be.

The 5 years have ended and it is now time for another election. Ahok is running for another 5 years.
Politicians saw this as a fantastic opportunity to seize power away from Ahok. So, they are working together to topple Ahok from power. They have done many things to do so. But the most prominent one is accusing Ahok of blasphemy.

Because money is not the only issue here.

Indonesia has had a long history of racism and systematic oppression towards the Chinese. Back in the 1960s, the president came out of a decree that forced Chinese people out of their homes and they were shipped back to China. Those who stayed were stripped off of their Chinese identity. They were forced to ‘Indonesianise’ their names. They were forbidden from learning their own language. They were not allowed to celebrate any traditional Chinese celebrations. Though these laws have been abolished since the early 2000s, the racism is still apparent.

Indonesia is also a country with the biggest Muslim population in the world. The Muslims in this country are really afraid of Christianity and consider it to be a large threat towards their religion. Churches get burned to the ground. Services get interrupted and the congregations are forced out of their place of worship.

This is the perfect display of Indonesian hypocrisy. Indonesians pride themselves over the richness of this country’s diversity and the fact that they have managed to stay united as one. ‘Bhinneka Tunggal Ika’ is the official national motto of Indonesia. It is an old Javanese saying that means ‘Unity in Diversity.’ They also claim to be righteous people because they are devoted to their religion and consider religion to be the most important thing in life. And yet, they steal money from the government. And yet, they discriminate over people who do not look like them. And yet, they prevent others from practicing other religions.

Ahok is a double minority, just like me. He is Chinese and he is a Christian. So far, he has never done anything wrong. He has not done anything worth condemning for that makes a truly solid accusation. Until one day, he said that religious conservatives who cite the Quranic verse (Surah al-Maidah verse 51) as an argument for not allowing Christians into high positions of power in the country were manipulating the people. This is where he slipped up.

Religious conservatives immediately yelled “Blasphemy!” even though Ahok did not actually blaspheme Islam. That Quranic verse does not even apply to Indonesia because Indonesia may have the biggest Muslim population in the world but it is NOT an Islamic country. Indonesia recognizes six official religions, in fact. Protests were held against Ahok. “Condemn him!” the people shouted. Blasphemy is a punishable crime in Indonesia.

However, the thousands of people who were ‘protesting’ did not even know what they were protesting about. A lot of them were not even from Jakarta. They were promised a bus ride to Jakarta, a small sum of money and lunch, if they participated in a protest. Can you guess by whom?

Long story short, this is by far the most major attempt on Ahok’s position by powerful politicians who want their source of income back. They only brought up the issues of race and religion to cover up their number one reason for wanting Ahok out, which is, of course, their empire of corruption. Unfortunately, Indonesians are far too easily provoked by petty claims. Ahok is now in court, facing charges of blasphemy.

It would be such a shame if Ahok is unable to obtain a second term because Jakarta would go back to being its past self, its worse self. Even as he took leave from office to campaign for his second term and an acting governor was appointed, we already began to see Jakarta rapidly fading back into its past self.

Ahok has nothing to lose. His salary as governor is nothing compared to what some companies and establishments are prepared to offer him if he gets out of office. He would stop receiving death threats and ridiculous accusations. He would have a lot of pressure off his shoulders. It is the people of Jakarta who have everything to lose.

As for me, being the person who is trying to be a good and caring citizen despite all the garbage that Indonesia has presented to me my entire life, I was so excited to vote for the first time and I was given this big opportunity to vote for someone worthwhile. I may hate this country, but I also still live in it and I still want the best for it.

I went through all the proper procedures to vote. I registered to vote, which is what you are supposed to do if you want to vote. I have registered since months beforehand, before the 15th of February, 2017, which is the Election Day. But for some reason, my name never made it into the system. Supposedly, if you have registered, you will receive an invitation that you must bring to the voting station later on. But I never received the invitation. My parents did the same and they also never received their invitations.

We raised a complaint to our District Office and their reply was that “I have inputted your names into the system. I have no idea why they never made it to the system.” So, we asked, “What do we do now?” and they said, “You can always just come to the voting station on Election Day. Just bring your IDs and your Family Card, and you should be able to vote.” We said, “Alright, then.”

Today, on the 15th of February, 2017, we arrived at the voting station only to be sent home, only to be denied permission to vote. We brought all the documents needed. But the supervisors said, “We were only given 20 extra forms for voters who aren’t registered and they have all been filled up so, sorry, you cannot vote.”

Excuse me? Did you just deny me my right to vote? I am calling you out on this bullshit, Indonesia.

What do you mean only 20 extra people are allowed to vote? WHAT DO YOU MEAN?

The General Election Commissions stated that they are limiting the number of voting forms that are given out to the people to prevent misuse of these forms and to prevent voter fraud.

This is no way to prevent voter fraud, especially since a few years ago, Indonesia came out with electronic IDs, known as E-KTP. Owning an E-KTP means that your data is online and in the system. Why didn’t they just use this very system to prevent voter fraud? People come with their IDs to vote and once they have come, they are marked out. And if they try to come back and vote again, they cannot because they have done so and it’s in the system! Why didn’t they just use this system?

Unless they just claim that they have this system to get people to make these so-called E-KTPs but they don’t actually have a system. Because if they have this system, supposedly, every data is easily updated, yes? But if they already have this system, why did I, who have registered, did not receive an invitation but my grandfather received an invitation, even though he never registered because HE DIED THREE YEARS AGO?

And as we can see here, they are literally limiting the number of people who can vote and yet, there are officials who are literally whining on national television about how voter turnout is only 77%? I cannot even begin to comprehend this idiocy, nor will I even try.

I have been disappointed, angered, outraged by the things that the Indonesian government has done throughout my entire life but never have I ever felt the way that I do today.

This day, when my country denied me my right to vote.

In Retrospect

On a much larger scale, many people of Jakarta experienced the same thing I did. They were also denied their right to vote, even the ones who had their invitations.

There was an entire residential complex who were not allowed to vote, despite the fact that they had invitations, and majority of the residents were Chinese, if I might add, who are more likely to vote for Ahok, not because the Chinese stick with the Chinese but because they simply know what is best for Jakarta.

The residents of one of the government-subsidized flats were also denied their right to vote. These people were the people whose lives were improved as they were given a better living space by Ahok after they were evicted from their houses that were made of scrap metal and wood and illegally built on riverbanks. They were evicted because their houses was one of the causes of Jakarta’s infamous floods. They were also more likely to vote for Ahok.

Looking at these incidents, it suggests that some very powerful people were sabotaging the election by denying potential Ahok voters their right to vote to prevent Ahok from getting more than 50% of the votes and thus, not winning the first round. If no candidate gets more than 50% of the votes, the two most voted candidates will move on to a second round.

It is highly unlikely for Ahok to win the second round. With him having 42.91% of the votes in the first round, while Anies, the runner up, had 40.05% and Agus, the other candidate having 17.04% of the votes. Agus voters will most likely rally with Anies voters because they are basically the anti-Ahok team.

It would be so heart-breaking to see such a great leader be pushed aside and all the good work he has done become undone again. Like I said before, Ahok has nothing to lose. It is the people of Jakarta who have everything to lose.

What is more frustrating is the fact that a lot of Indonesians, specifically the poor and uneducated ones, do not really wish to change, not even for the better and are continuing to be highly susceptible to manipulation by powerful politicians who just want to buy cheap votes in order to get their empire of corruption back. And of course, these powerful politicians prefer the poor to stay stupid.

So, here we have a man who is a transparent leader, who is willing to work hard to improve Jakarta, who is so dedicated to his work, who gets nothing out of it, who doesn’t really have to do what he is doing but he’s doing it anyway. And yet, people don’t appreciate it at all. And yet, people call him an infidel. And yet, people send him death threats.

The way I see it, the fact that so many powerful and corrupt politicians hate him so much, means he is doing something right.

To the people of Jakarta, I implore you. Do you wish to see Jakarta transformed for the better? Do you want to see this norm of ours, that government officials must be corrupt, gone? Would you like to prove whether we are a people that truly embraces diversity? Think about what’s more important: a great leader who has already proven that he is capable of improving Jakarta and one that is true to his word or choosing a leader merely because they are the same race or religion with you, regardless of their true intentions.

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