Protest voters, young voters vie for public support ahead of Indonesian elections

JAKARTA (The Jakarta Post/ANN) - Indonesia's young people are called for casting their votes in the April 17 elections.

Over the weekend, only days before the elections, some of the country’s youth staged rallies to encourage people to vote while protest voters, who are calling themselves "golput", stepped up their criticism against the current political system and reiterated their intention to not vote for any politician.

People associated with the golput movement have reiterated that abstention is a legitimate form of protest against the government, while young voters in Medan, North Sumatra, and Semarang, Central Java, have publicly denounced the act of nonvoting.

Saya Golput (I Vote None) – a group that has been at the forefront of the protest movement in recent weeks – published a manifesto on Friday titled “Memilih untuk Tidak Memilih” (“Vote Not to Vote”).

“Legislative candidates were picked by their respective parties, without involvement from the public. Presidential and vice-presidential candidates were also nominated without feedback from the public. People are forced to vote; we do not have any authority over our decision. The 2019 elections are not the people’s elections,” the group wrote on its official Medium page.

Saya Golput recently came under fire online as netizens considered views espoused by the movement to be disruptive to the elections and the country’s democracy in general.

Feminist Lini Zurlia, who recently rose to prominence as the face of the Saya Golput movement on social media platforms, received a glut of ad hominem comments from netizens who mocked her for being a “privileged millennial”.

The abstention rate has been increasing since the 1999 general election, and disillusioned voters have recently taken to social media to voice their intention to abstain from voting on April 17 because of their disappointment with both presidential tickets, particularly with their stances on human rights.

A poll by Indikator Politik Indonesia in January shows that even though the abstention rate is high (about 30 percent), only 1.1 percent of 1,200 respondents said they would not vote for either candidate pair.

In a last-ditch effort to counteract the rising golput movement, university students from the Indonesian Law Students Association (Permahi) staged a public protest denouncing abstention and money politics at Medan Merdeka Square in Medan on Sunday.

The head of Permahi in Medan, Mulyadi Sihombing, said the event was a peaceful protest to encourage the public to vote.

“We also urge the public not to be tempted by money politics or any incentive to support a certain candidate. Money politics poses a serious threat to the country’s democracy,” Mulyadi told The Jakarta Post on Sunday.

He later called on all members of the public, including university students, to be involved in the effort to fight against money politics and get more people to vote.

Meanwhile, young voters in Semarang also staged a similar protest, urging their fellow millennials to exercise their voting rights on Election Day. Members of the Semarang Anti-Golput Millennial Group painted their bare torsos with the slogan “No Golput” during the protest at Simpang Lima Square on Sunday.

Event coordinator Ivan Handoko said he expected the protest to persuade young people to vote, since the abstention rate among millennials was high.

“We carried out the protest because we have been disturbed by the increasing number of potential nonvoters as shown by numerous surveys,” Ivan told the Post, while calling on his fellow millennials to cast their votes at the assigned polling stations.

“Abstention is not a solution. The future of this country is at stake. Let’s not waste the government’s Rp 24.8 trillion [US$1,759 billion] budget dedicated to organizing the general election.”

In addition to university students, social media firms such as Instagram have also weighed in on the abstention phenomenon among millennials.

To appeal to young voters, Instagram collaborated with popular local comic artist Reza Mustar to design a series of digital stickers encouraging the public to vote.

“These stickers are the result of my collaboration with Instagram. Don’t forget to exercise your voting rights in this year’s biggest celebration of democracy. You can use my stickers on your Instagram stories tagged with #SayaPilihIndonesia (#IVoteForIndonesia)!” Reza wrote on his Instagram page, @komikazer, alongside still images of his stickers.


No photos has been attached.