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Successful Elections in Indonesia, a Warm up to 2019?

Last Wednesday,  17 provinces, 39 cities, and 115 regencies in Indonesia held simultaneous elections to choose mayors, governors, and regents.  Around 150 million Indonesians expect to have a credible local leader who is committed to putting the welfare of the people as his or her first priority.

The General Election Commission (KPU) head Wahyu Setiawan said that the national turnout stood at 73,24 percent on Wednesday’s poll, less than the initial target of 77 percent. But, the result is not final as 14 regions had decided to postpone their polls and 69 polling stations had to repeat the polls due to some irregularities.

The government had made June 27 a national holiday in hopes of increasing voter turnout.

The Elections Went Safely

Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister Wiranto stated that the polls went on safely, based on reports from regional police, regional military commanders (Pangdam), and resort military commanders (Danrem).

“(Based on the information) from the vidcons (video conferences) on reports from Kapolda, Pangdam and Danrem, thank God elections in all the 171 regions generally went safely, peacefully, orderly, smoothly and controllably,” the former general said.

Pivotal Role in Populous Regions 

According to a polling agency, four provinces were anticipating tight competition ahead of the elections and given that their combined populations represent 41 percent of the country’s total population focus was intense. The provinces are South Sulawesi, West Java, Central Java and East Java.

In 2014, the percentage of voters in West Java, Central Java and East Java reached 48 percent of national votes, KPU data showed.

South Sulawesi, North Sumatera, East Java, West Kalimantan, and Papua are among the most vulnerable regions to conflicts ahead of the regional elections, as the country’s Ministry of Interior stated referring to the research result of the Election Supervisory Board (Banwaslu).

Ethnic conflict is common in Papua and as a result, old traditions and grudges can be manipulated by candidates to gain votes. Like in Papua, there are several ethnic and cultural disputes in the other regions. Several tribe groups sometimes see the election as a war.

The regencies of Nduga and Panian postponed the regency elections that were slated for June 27, due to security concerns.

“It has been recommended that voting in those two regencies be postponed because of security concerns,” stated General Elections Commission (KPU) commissioner Wahyu Setiawan in Semarang, Central Java, on Wednesday.

How will the regional election affect the 2019 presidential poll?

The June 27 regional polls were held just less than a year from the 2019 presidential and parliamentary elections, and a few months before the deadline of political parties to nominate their presidential candidates.

Former Indonesian president and chairman of Democratic Party (PD) Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said that the result of the elections does not always correlate to the outcome of the presidential and parliamentary polls.

He added that the temporary result of the regional election had exceeded his party’s expectation.

“The temporary calculation was more [from target], it means on target,” said Yudhoyono at the Democratic Party’s DPP office, Wisma Proklamasi, Menteng, Central Jakarta, Wednesday.

Voters Look at Candidates, Regardless of Political Party

A political analyst at the University of Andalas, West Sumatra told VOA that he was unsure that the result of the regional polls would reflect that of the 2019 election. While discussing the relationship between Indonesian President Joko Widodo and the political party who backs him, the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), he said it is the president who boosts the party’s electability, not the other way around.

In regional elections, voters tend to consider the reputation of candidates, regardless of political parties supporting those candidates. As there is no real enemy and friends in politics, PDI-P also formed a coalition with the opposition Gerindra Party in some provinces.

Still, other analysts were reporting the success of PDI-P in the regional elections were a positive sign for Indonesian President Joko Widodo and his bid for re-election next year.

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Yasmeen Rasidi

Yasmeen is a writer and political science graduate of the National University, Jakarta. She covers a variety of topics for Citizen Truth including the Asia and Pacific region, international conflicts and press freedom issues. Yasmeen had worked for Xinhua Indonesia and GeoStrategist previously. She writes from Jakarta, Indonesia.

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