Religious leaders urge Indonesians to vote next month

JAKARTA • Major Muslim and Christian religious organisations have called on the faithful to exercise their right to vote in the upcoming elections to counter a rising movement in favour of abstaining and the possibility that potential voters might choose to go on holiday during the election week.

On Monday, Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) executive Muhyiddin Junaidi reiterated the organisation's stance that abstaining from voting is haram, or forbidden on religious grounds.

The MUI issued a fatwa in 2014 requiring Muslims to vote, and it stipulated they should vote for a leader who met certain religious criteria. "In Islam, voting for a leader is an obligation in order to uphold leadership and governance in our shared life," the fatwa said.

Other major Islamic mass organisations have also called on their followers to vote on April 17.

The Catholic Indonesian Bishops Conference and the Protestant Indonesian Communion of Churches have both also issued statements saying there is a moral obligation to vote.

Indonesia's voter turnout rate has traditionally been high, with post-reform era turnouts consistently hitting 70 per cent or higher.

But the rate of abstentions has been rising 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.

Rights activist Haris Azhar, who has been outspoken in voicing his support for abstention, said that the religious organisations do not seem to have the interests of the people at heart.

"As religious organisations, they should understand the cries of the people who are disappointed with candidates who do not address the problems of the people," he told The Jakarta Post on Tuesday.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 28, 2019, with the headline 'Religious leaders urge Indonesians to vote next month'. Subscribe