Being far from home, the Indonesian diaspora continues to be the disengaged electorate, especially ahead of the legislative election. According to a recent survey, many of them admitted to not being aware of who the legislative candidates were, let alone who they were going to vote for in the upcoming election.
A survey released by Indonesian Diaspora Network-United (IDN-United) on Friday showed that 56 percent of Indonesians living abroad said they were “not aware” of the legislative candidates, while 29 percent said they were “less aware” of the candidates competing in the 2019 legislative election.
The survey polled 541 Indonesians living in 41 countries on five continents — who filled out online questionnaires distributed through mailing lists, periodic newsletters and online networking platforms between Nov. 12 and Jan. 31.
The results were in stark contrast to their knowledge of presidential and vice presidential candidates, with only 4 percent and 11 percent of respondents saying either they were not aware of or less aware of these candidates.
While 85 percent of respondents said they would vote in the coming presidential election, only 69 percent said they would vote in the legislative election — even though this year’s elections would be held simultaneously for the first time.
The same phenomenon was evident in past elections, with voter turnout in the 2014 legislative election having stood at 22 percent, far lower than the 83 percent turnout in the presidential election in the same year, according to data from General Elections Commission (KPU).
In the survey, about 60 percent of respondents said they were not aware of those who currently were representing them at the House of Representatives.
“It shows a lack of outreach to overseas voters by legislative candidates,” IDN-United president Herry Utomo said. “These candidates are expected to be proactive in presenting their visions and missions to the diaspora through social media, online media and other technology.”
An Indonesian graduate student at Penn State University in the United States, Agus Surachman said that while he was excited to vote in the 2019 presidential election, he did not know who to vote for in the legislative election.
“I just learned that voters abroad will have to vote for candidates from the Jakarta 2 electoral district,” Agus said.
The Jakarta 2 district, which also covers votes from Central Jakarta and South Jakarta, is known to be a tough electoral district where dozens of big names are competing for seven House seats.
Eighty-four candidates are on the list, including incumbents such as the Prosperous Justice Party’s (PKS) Hidayat Nur Wahid and the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle’s (PDI-P) Masinton Pasaribu, as well as new faces such as Indonesian Solidarity Party (PSI) politician Tsamara Amany and the United Indonesia Party’s (Perindo) Liliana Tanaja, who is the wife of media mogul Hary Tanoesoedibjo.
The KPU said 2.05 million registered voters overseas were expected to either vote at about 3,500 polling stations set up worldwide or through absentee voting between April 8 and 14, just days before the scheduled voting day on April 17.
Compared to around 800,000 registered voters from Central Jakarta and 1.6 million registered voters from South Jakarta, overseas voters could be a determining factor in winning the Jakarta 2 electoral district.
However, many members of the Indonesian diaspora have long demanded for the formation of an overseas electoral district for better representation, particularly on issues that are different from those of most voters at home, such as legal protection abroad, consular assistance and migrant worker protection — the first two of which were also highlighted in the survey.
According to the Overseas Election Committee (PPLN), countries with large populations of migrant workers topped the list for the largest registered Indonesian voters, with 558,873 voters registered at the Indonesian Embassy in Kuala Lumpur, followed by the Indonesian Economic and Trade Office in Taiwan with 277,065 and the Indonesian Consulate General in Hong Kong with 180,232.
The survey, however, did not receive many responses from citizens living in Malaysia and Saudi Arabia and Taiwan, thus making the poll more “reflective of the aspirations of the non-migrant worker diaspora”.
Arya Fernandes of the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) said “legal protection abroad and [diaspora] capacity building should [nevertheless] be among the main concerns” of candidates aiming to lure overseas voters because the majority of Indonesians living abroad were low-skilled workers, not professionals.
PSI candidate Tsamara said she would pay attention to migrant worker protection and human trafficking prevention if she was elected to the House. “I will have a conference call with voters in Hong Kong, and by the end of this month I will visit the Netherlands [to campaign].”