News: Engaging young Indonesian voters in Australia

Efforts are being made to engage thousands of young Indonesians living in Australia in upcoming elections.
By Samantha Yap

Source: World News Radio

ImageIndonesian overseas voting committees around the world are gearing up for the 2014 Indonesian legislative and presidential elections set to begin next month.

The legislative elections for parliamentary candidates will be held on the ninth of April and the presidential elections will follow three months later.

There are two-million registered overseas voters in total, and thousands are in Australia – many of them as students.

Samantha Yap finds out how they will be engaging in the elections.

These elections will mark the end of President Susilo Bangbang Yudhoyono’s ten-year-term and a new era in Indonesia’s democratic history.

The country’s General Elections Commission says there are about 180 million registered voters including overseas voters.

First-time youth voters who comprise roughly a third of the registered voters could be the game changers in the elections.

Currently in Australia, there are over 17,000 Indonesian students who are eligible to vote, but not all of them are informed about casting their vote.

President of the Indonesian Students Association in Australia, Pan Mohamad Faiz says young Indonesian voters in Australia lack enthusiasm towards the elections.

“[Among] the young Indonesians, there is still apathy about politics. They don’t care about the politics because according to the young Indonesians, politics causes more problems. They also follow news from Indonesia and they say it cannot change Indonesia, even if they give a vote.”

The Indonesian government has representatives in five Australian states who have been working to inform eligible Indonesian voters about the upcoming elections.

In order to vote from overseas, Indonesian citizens are able to register online.

If they have not registered online, they are encouraged to go to voting stations around Australia with their passports to vote.

The Indonesian Consulates in Sydney, Melbourne, Darwin, Adelaide and Perth and the Indonesian Embassy in Canberra will hold polling booths on both election days.

Chairman of the Indonesian Overseas Voting Comittee in Victoria, Isvet A. Novera, is in charge of the voting station at the Consulate General in Melbourne.

He believes more young voters will turn up for the presidential elections in July than for the legislative elections next month.

“Based on my experience five years ago, the students or the voters [are] not really interested to give a vote for the House of Representative members. But next coming July, it’s the presidential elections, plenty of them [will] have enthusiasm to give a vote. So I can’t say whether they want to come [on] this upcoming April vote because they don’t know who’s going to be their representative. They don’t know the candidates as well.”

A group of young adults in Jakarta has set up a campaign called Ayo Vote – which translates to ‘Let’s Vote’ – to raise awareness among young people about the importance of casting an informed vote.

President of Ayo Vote, Pingkan Irwin, says young voters need to understand the electoral process but information made available to them is often complicated.

“Local media is actually not doing a great job in explaining to the youth about the election process itself. Sometimes the language is too complicated, it’s very hard to understand or the information is just not very approachable for the young generation. So we try to repackage that using the language that youth voters can understand, and we do a lot of multimedia content as well so we do a lot of videos to make it more visual based information that is easy to understand and easy to digest for the young voters.”

But even those who keep up to date with the political system, find it difficult to decide who to vote for.

President of the Indonesian Student Association’s Victoria chapter, Aga Shahputra says young people only know a few candidates.

“These days Indonesia'[s] young community is very critical. Everyday we open Indonesian news. We try to catch up with what’s been happening in Indonesia. If you ask me, whether we really know who we are going to vote for, I can say we know some of them. But some of them are the new candidates [and] we just know the general information about them.”

There are two-million overseas voters registered with 130 Overseas Election Committee offices worldwide but data shows that historically only about one in five will vote.

Overseas voters can only vote for representatives in Jakarta and Mr Novera says this is why Indonesians who come from different provinces are confused about who to vote for.

“The voters all around the world, aside [from] Indonesia. They only give the vote for one state in Jakarta, the Jakarta representative people. Because people come from many provinces in Indonesia, most of them don’t know who they’re going to vote [for]. That’s the problem. The system is not good now.”

Confusion aside, Mr Faiz encourages Indonesian young people in Australia cast their votes at polling stations in April and July.

He stresses that the future of Indonesia will be in the hands of the younger generation and if they don’t vote they may miss an opportunity to make a change.

“Young Indonesians have very bright vision[s], they still have the future of Indonesia. If from now the young Indonesians don’t care about the future of Indonesia, I cannot imagine what will be Indonesia in the future. Of course there will be no direct change when we cast our right, but there should be another step where we can raise our concern during the government period.”

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