By Samiaji Bintang
July 8th, 2009, was a historic day in Indonesia. I forced myself to wake up early, and went to voting station near to my home. I went with a purpose: to cast my ballot for the next leader of Indonesia, a country with the biggest Moslem population.
Along with more than 176 million voters across the country –the third largest election after the United State and India, I dream of a strong and visionary leader who could bring a better living for the people of the country. National Statistic Agency reports around 33 million still live in poverty and 1 out of every 114 adults are looking for work.
As I walked to the polling station I thought, our next President must create more jobs for the young people in particular. Over the next five years, she/he must also work to provide free and more access to education and better health care service for the poor and low income family both in the cities and remote villages in the archipelago.
Instead of the propaganda and empty promises made during the campaign, the next president that Indonesian people count on must be a man or woman who will guarantee the end of cronyism in state-owned corporations and bureaucracies which is part of the Suharto dictatorship’s legacy.
Despite the overwhelming natural resources, the Transparency International report in 2009 notes Indonesia is still on the highest ranks of the corrupt countries list.
So our new leader must be courageous to eradicate corruption regarded as a major source of disaster for the country. It has undermined state wealth for years and impoverished millions.
Maybe candidates should heed the old proverb start from small things; be honest and transparent. That’s the best way to judge the candidate’s credibility and accountability. Besides his/her personal wealth, the candidates must publish their campaign donations; how much and where did they come from?
This is important as voters need to know who contributed to candidates’ campaigns to monitor whether elected leaders attempt to repay this support by policy decisions which are disadvantageous to the general public. Otherwise, according to Indonesia Corruption Watch, a local NGO, the candidates could compromise future decision-making if they win power, and spend funds in illegal ways, such as buying votes.
Current and past controversy
While queuing up in the line, I look over the candidates’ faces on the information board near the ballot box. It shows Megawati Sukarnoputri and her running-mate (retired general) Prabowo Subianto on the first column. The second is (retired general) Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and his running-mate Budiono. The last is Jusuf Kalla and his running-mate (retired general) Wiranto.
Despite their achievements, those candidates have long record of controversy. A news report which I read few days before the election-day stated the candidates in Indonesia’s 2009 presidential election are alleged to have taken illegal campaign donations.
The illegal practices are widely used to get around the limit on donations set by the election law. It regulates corporate donations to a presidential campaign to no more than IDR 5 billion (US$505,000), while individual donations are limited at IDR 1 billion. The law is supposed to ensure the election will be fair for each candidate.
Until the D-Day of the election, voters have no press releases or clear statements from each candidate concerning their campaign donations.
Another news report exposed a retired general as having committed serious crimes against humanity such as kidnapping and killing civilians during the past Suharto dictatorship.
Given those three candidates, in the long run, there are no guarantees the next president will live up to public expectations on eradicating corruption and poverty as well as upholding human rights. Moreover, three decades of living under the dictatorship of Gen. Suharto is enough for Indonesians to reach that conclusion.
Some of you may say those who do not exercise their right to vote are bad citizens. But, at least s/he does not compromise his/her conscience and contribute to any deception of the next president by giving his/her vote.
Thus, after re-thinking of the candidate’s records for a moment, I made a clear decision; turn away and leave the ballot station afterwards.
Three weeks later, General Election Commission announces the final election result.
From 171,068,667 registered voters in 33 provinces and oversea, the results show Yudhoyono won 73,874,562 votes; Megawati with 32,548,105 votes; and Kalla with 15,081,814 votes.
The Commission stated nearly 50 million registered voters did not show up nor exercise their right to vote on the Election Day.
I guess I am not the only one on this side. * END