Larger-than-expected turnout at overseas polling stations

Voters in the Kanto region of Japan, including the Greater Tokyo Area and encompassing seven prefectures, swarm the Balai Indonesia multi-function hall in Tokyo, on April 14, 2019, to cast their votes.
Voters in the Kanto region of Japan, including the Greater Tokyo Area and encompassing seven prefectures, swarm the Balai Indonesia multi-function hall in Tokyo, on April 14, 2019, to cast their votes.PHOTO: THE JAKARTA POST/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

JAKARTA • A bigger than expected turnout by unregistered overseas Indonesian voters led to long lines at polling stations in cities around the world over the weekend.

Photos of snaking lines in cities like Amsterdam and Tokyo flooded social media last Saturday and on Sunday, as hundreds of thousands of Indonesian voters took to polling stations to cast their votes.

More than two million overseas voters are registered on the final voter list, or DPT, compiled by the General Elections Commission.

Registered voters were able to vote when the polls opened, generally from 8am to 6pm local time, but unregistered voters had to wait until an hour before the polls closed, leading to long lines.

The elections commission is mulling re-opening polling stations in Sydney, where hundreds of voters failed to cast their ballots because of time constraints.

Mr Donny Verdian, a 41-year-old design consultant and blogger living in Sydney, said the polling station at Sydney Town Hall closed at 6pm local time last Saturday despite a large number of unregistered voters still waiting in line.

"The line stretched for three blocks," he told The Jakarta Post on Sunday.

"The doors were closed on time and guarded by several well-built officials."


    •A police chief in West Sumatra has put up a one million rupiah (S$96) cash reward for anyone who blows the whistle on money politics in tomorrow's national elections.

    •Adjutant Commissioner Dony Setiawan, who heads the police force in Solok city, said such practices create an uneven playing field during an election. "How about legislative candidates who are on a tight budget? They would certainly lose. This is why money politics must be fought against for the sake of fair democracy," he was quoted as saying by state news agency Antara in a report yesterday.


    •To avoid clashes between supporters of opposing candidates in tomorrow's polls, Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs Wiranto yesterday issued a ban on public parades. Mr Wiranto, who goes by one name, said the ban will be effective until the General Elections Commission has completed its vote tally and officially announces the results from April 25.


    •Former Jakarta governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, best known by his Chinese nickname Ahok, on Sunday joined hundreds of thousands of Indonesians overseas in casting their votes. "Just exercised my voting rights at the 2019 election in Osaka, Japan," posted Mr Basuki on his Instagram page, hours after he voted.

    •According to Tempo news, Mr Basuki was almost denied his right to vote. "I was almost duped by someone just now. I wasn't allowed to queue despite having already listed in the (final voters list)," he said in a video he posted online.



He managed to vote but others were not as lucky.

A petition demanding a revote read: "Hundreds of Indonesians, who are eligible to vote, were not allowed to exercise their right even though there was a long line in front of the town hall polling station since the afternoon."

Election commissioner Ilham Saputra attributed the situation in Sydney to an unexpected influx of unregistered voters.

He added that the polling station at Sydney Town Hall, in particular, could not stay open later because the venue had been rented by the Overseas Elections Committee (PPLN) for a limited time only.

PPLN coordinator Wajid Fauzi said it was currently working with the Elections Supervisory Agency, the Sydney PPLN and the Elections Supervisory Committee to reopen the polling station in Sydney, which was not the only city where voters faced long lines.

In Tokyo, 90 per cent of registered voters in the Kanto region of Japan showed up at a polling station on Sunday, when the closing time was extended. Two hours after the closing time of 7pm, at least 300 people, most of them students and first-time voters, were still queueing at the Balai Indonesia multi-function hall in Meguro, Tokyo.

According to Mr Makmur Lubis, the head of the PPLN for the Kanto region, 90 per cent of the 1,208 voters who had registered to cast their ballots at the polling station showed up as of 4pm. It beat the previous record set in the 2014 election, when the figure hovered at around 75 per cent.

"We were surprised by the huge number of voters who showed up. We think there are many factors at play, with one being that there are only two pairs of candidates, which makes it easier for voters to decide," said Mr Makmur.

In San Francisco, 28-year-old unregistered voter Heriberta Maharestusadya, 28, also stood in a long line to vote.

She, along with hundreds of other potential voters, waited for over five hours before she was eventually able to cast her vote.

"There were people who had lined up for hours with me but were then told they had been listed on the DPT and had ballots sent to their homes. However, they have yet to receive any ballots. They eventually had to go home without voting," she said.

In Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, a large number of unregistered voters also turned up last Friday, but the local PPLN said it managed to handle the situation.

According to the elections commission, during the 2014 legislative election, only 464,458, or 22.19 per cent, of more than two million registered overseas voters submitted their ballots.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 16, 2019, with the headline 'Larger-than-expected turnout at overseas polling stations'. Print Edition | Subscribe