2009 National Elections in Jakarta, Indonesia
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Indonesia is a republic with the President as the head of state and head of government. The term of office is five years and 2009 is election year in Indonesia. This is only the second time that the country will hold presidential elections in which the President and Vice President will be directly elected by the general public. Prior to 2004, both positions were elected based on voting by members of Indonesia’s former upper house, the People’s Consultative Assembly.
Besides the election of the President and the Vice President, there will be important elections for legislative assemblies at national, provincial and regency levels. 44 political parties, including 6 local parties in Aceh province, have been declared eligible to run in the first round of elections to be held on April 9. This is a substantial increase from the 24 parties that participated in the elections five years ago. Around 12,000 candidates will contest 560 seats in the House of Representatives (Dewan Perwakilan Rakyat, DPR). In addition, there are 1,109 candidates for the Regional Representative Council (Dewan Perwakilan Daerah, DPD) with approximately another hundred thousand candidates running for seats in legislative bodies at provincial, regency and mayoralty level (DPRD).
In Jakarta there are 38 political parties participating in the legislative elections, with 2,283 candidates contesting seats in the House of Representatives and 41 candidates for the Regional Representative Council. They are vying for 94 seats in the Jakarta City Council, 21 in the House of Representatives and four in the Regional Representative Council. There are approximately 7 million voters in the capital city and approximately 170 million voters nationwide. The mammoth task of organizing and overseeing the elections process falls to the General Elections Commission (KPU). Eligible voters will cast their votes at over 470,000 voting stations throughout the country. Voters will vote for both parties and candidates. This year a new voting system is being introduced, where voters mark the ballot paper instead of perforating it as has been done in previous elections. The votes at each station will be counted on the night of the election and will then be aggregated at successive levels (district, regional, provincial and national), depending on the office being elected.
The results of the April 9 elections will determine the strength of the major political parties and the candidates put forward for the office of President and Vice President. Political parties or coalitions that secure a minimum of 20 percent of seats at the House of Representatives, or 25 percent of total valid votes nationally will have the right to nominate presidential candidates. The constitution does not allow for independent candidates to stand for President and Vice President.
After the results of the first round of elections are announced by early May there will no doubt be a lot of frantic deal making among the various political parties to form coalitions and to agree on their presidential and vice presidential candidates by the May 6 deadline for registration. The more successful parties with the greatest numbers of seats won in the DPR will most likely nominate their presidential candidates, with less successful parties probably able to nominate vice presidential running mates for a particular presidential nominee.
The dates of the major events in connection with the elections are as follows:
March 16 – April 5, 2009 - Authorized campaign period for legislative elections.
April 6 – 8, 2009 - Cooling off period. No campaigning permitted.
April 9, 2009 - Election of representatives to the DPR, DPD and DPRD.
April 19 –May 9, 2009 - Announcement of the results of the DPR, DPD and DPRD elections.
May 15 – 20, 2009 - Allocation of seats in the DPR, DPD and DPRD.
May 6 – 30, 2009 - Registration of Presidential/Vice Presidential Candidates to the National Election Commission (KPU) by the political parties.
June 1 – July 5, 2009 - Authorized campaign period for Presidential/Vice-Presidential elections.
July 6 – 7, 2009 - Cooling off period. No campaigning permitted.
July 8, 2009 - First round of Presidential/Vice-Presidential election process.
July 27, 2009 - Announcement of the results of the first round of Presidential/Vice-Presidential Election Process. If no candidate wins a majority, then a second round will be held.
August/September, 2009 - Campaign.
September 8, 2009 - Second round of voting in the Presidential/Vice-Presidential Elections.
October 9/10, 2009 - Formal announcement of the winners of the Presidential/Vice-Presidential Election.
20 October, 2009 - The inauguration of the President and Vice-President.
Although the election campaign began on July 12, 2008, it is limited to invitation-only meetings, advertisements in the media and the distribution of campaign materials up until March 16, 2009. This period has seen the proliferation of banners and posters in public spaces all over the city. The public campaign will run from March 16 to April 5, 2009.
Active campaigning for the presidential and vice presidential elections is scheduled for the whole month of June, with a few quiet days before the election on July 8. To win on the first ballot, the presidential and vice presidential pairing must receive more than 50% of the votes cast. After the announcement of the result of the presidential elections, if no pairing receives more than 50% then the KPU will designate the two presidential and vice presidential pairings that received the greatest number of votes. These two pairings will proceed to compete in the run off election on September 8. Whether the election contest requires two rounds or one, the new President and Vice President will be inaugurated on October 20, 2009.
What kind of impact will the campaigning and other activities associated with the election process have on the lives of expatriate residents of Jakarta?
The government is keen to ensure a smooth election process; however, the potential for civil disorder is always present in Indonesia’s fledgling democracy, due to the possibility of political maneuvering, rallies, demonstrations and money politics. The security situation in Jakarta might be unstable because of rallies held by candidates involving thousands of supporters.
In previous elections campaigning by contesting parties usually took the form of rallies and marches with party supporters wearing T-shirts in their party colors parading around the city in convoys of vehicles waving party flags. The authorities in consultation with the major political parties have drawn up a timetable, whereby four parties are allowed to parade on given days with only one major party being allowed to parade on any one day. The campaign rallies and parades will, of course, lead to traffic jams in certain parts of the city. The timetable will allow the public to know in advance which times and places should be avoided. Your driver can also tune the car radio in to Elshinta (FM 90.05) to keep abreast of the current traffic situation.
The most important advice for expatriates in Indonesia is to keep informed and aware in order to be able to continue their business and personal activities in a safe manner during the election process. There may be serious disruption to traffic in the central city area and companies with advance information of rallies coming their way may either allow their employees to leave work early or advise them to allow additional time for travel to appointments. If traveling to or from the airport it may be necessary to allow additional time or to seek an alternative route.
Try to avoid large crowds and if confronted by one seek an alternative route. If you do find yourself in a crowd situation, remain calm and smile at the participants pretending that you also support whichever party they are campaigning for.
If you get caught in a street rally while driving in your car, the best advice is usually to keep vehicle doors and windows closed at all times. However, sometimes participants in party rallies will try to garner support from car drivers or passengers, either by seeking a donation or by handing out leaflets to them. You don’t need to feel obligated to pay anything, but accept a leaflet, if offered. Neutral and friendly (smiles and waving) is the best position to adopt. Indonesian elections are none of the average expat's business and neutrality is really the best attitude.
It is possible that criminals might seek to use a rally as an opportunity to perpetrate crime. Do not have personal items such as hand phones, laptop computers or handbags in clear sight in your car. Ensure your hand phone is charged daily so that you remain contactable and that your vehicle has adequate fuel and is well serviced.
On election days, your domestic staff will need to have adequate time off to go to the voting station in the district where they are registered as voters.
Although the election process will be time consuming and complicated, for foreigners living here it will be interesting to witness these significant events that will become part of Indonesia’s history.
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