Voter zeal for Indonesia's election leads to long lines 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. PHOTO: THE JAKARTA POST/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

JAKARTA (THE JAKARTA POST/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - A bigger than expected turnout by unregistered overseas Indonesian voters led to long lines at polling stations in various cities around the world over the weekend.

Photos of snaking lines in cities like Amsterdam and Tokyo flooded social media last Saturday (April 13) 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 (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 the 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."

He managed to vote but others were not so 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." As of Sunday evening, the petition had been signed by more than 8,800 people.

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.

Elections commission 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 queuing at the Balai Indonesia multi-function hall in Meguro, Tokyo.

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

He added that there were around 300 spillovers, including tourists, and around 800 of those have yet to be registered. They all fall in the special voter list (DPK).

"We did not have extra ballots, so we had to use unused returned postal ballots to accommodate the special voters."

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, had to line up for over five hours amid uncertainty about the availability of the remaining ballots. Ms Heriberta was eventually able to cast her vote, but others were not so lucky.

"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, in the 2014 legislative election, only 464,458 or 22.19 per cent of more than two million registered overseas voters cast their ballots. Voter turnout was higher for the 2014 presidential election, at 33 per cent, but still trailed far behind the overall voter turnout rate of around 73 per cent.

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