Indonesia's regional elections

New hopes flourish for East Nusa Tenggara residents

Polling station working committee members preparing ballots as people await their turn to vote at Oetete sub-district in Kupang.
Polling station working committee members preparing ballots as people await their turn to vote at Oetete sub-district in Kupang.ST PHOTO: LINDA YULISMAN

Rock music broke the silence in Pasir Panjang, a sub-district of Kupang, at 7am yesterday and woke up the neighbourhood. Loudspeakers blasting songs at a makeshift polling station in the sleepy town signalled to residents that it was time for them to cast their ballots.

Like residents of most rustic neighbourhoods in East Nusa Tenggara province, known by its Indonesian acronym NTT, people here are generally laid-back. But some residents told The Straits Times that the gubernatorial election is important as they are hoping for new leadership that could improve people's welfare in Indonesia's third-poorest province.

The province is unique in Muslim-majority Indonesia in that Catholics form 55 per cent of its 5.2 million population; Protestants, 34 per cent; and Muslims, 9 per cent. All the four candidates hoping to become the province's next governor are non-Muslims.

Mr Agustinus Tauno, 63, a neighbourhood leader, woke up at 6am and cast his ballot at 7.23am. He was the first voter at the polling station, located close to the house of Mr Viktor Laiskodat, the front runner in the race backed by NasDem Party, Golkar Party and Hanura Party.

"We need a leader who can create prosperity for our people," Mr Agustinus said. He is among nearly 3.2 million registered voters at 9,672 polling stations across NTT, a province of 550 islands.

Another voter, Ms Vonny Lapebesi, 52, went to a polling station in Oetete sub-district early to vote. She lives next to Ms Emelia Julia Nomleni, the running mate of gubernatorial candidate Marianus Sae, backed by the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle and National Awakening Party.

Ms Vonny backed Ms Emelia not only because she knows the candidate well but also because of her belief that women should play a more significant role in the government.

At the NasDem headquarters in Kupang, supporters of Mr Viktor could not hide their joy upon seeing the tentative result of the quick count that revealed he was leading in the four-way race.

"Our victory is not an end. We encourage our supporters to be patient and not to be carried away by euphoria because our target is to create welfare for East Nusa Tenggara people," Mr Viktor told supporters.

He and his running mate Josef Nae Soi led the race by securing 35.94 per cent of the votes, according to quick counts by Saiful Mujani Research & Consulting, as of 5pm Singapore time.

The pair were followed by the Marianus Sae-Emelia pairing (26.96 per cent), Esthon Foenay-Christian Rotok (19.48 per cent), and Benny Harman-Benny Alexander Litelnoni (17.62 per cent).

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 28, 2018, with the headline 'New hopes flourish for East Nusa Tenggara residents'. Subscribe