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Indonesians Abroad Say They’re Being Denied the Right to Vote

Large voter turnouts and disorganization left thousands of Indonesians in Sydney and Hong Kong unable to cast their vote after standing in line for hours.

by Mustika Hapsoro
16 April 2019, 8:56am

Indonesians wait to cast their overseas ballots in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on April 14, 2019. Photo via AP

Days before over polling stations open in Indonesia on Wednesday, Indonesians living abroad flocked to embassies and consulates to cast their vote on April 13 and 14. In several countries, however, the process was far from smooth.

According to the Indonesian Elections Commission (KPU), over two million overseas voters are registered on the final voter list. But the number unregistered voter turnout in several cities apparently exceeded expectations. This led to long queues that spanned several blocks and delays and even prevented some would-be voters from exercising their rights.

On Twitter, Sydney-based Indonesian Agung Ananda expressed his disappointment over the disorganization at the polling station. "As a Jokowi supporter, I'm disappointed that thousands of Indonesians who were going to vote for Jokowi were forced to abstain because the election committee in Sydney was not ready to handle the crowd under the special voter list who were only given an hour to vote before the poll was closed," Ananda wrote.

Around 1,400 Indonesians were reportedly unable to cast their vote at the consulate general in Sydney.

In Sydney, pre-registered voters were able to vote when the polls opened from 8 AM to 6 PM local time. Those who were not on the pre-registered list, including Indonesian tourists, fell under the special voter list, and were supposed to wait an hour before the polls closed for their chance to vote. However, the city’s branch of the overseas election committee decided to close the polls at exactly 6 PM, while many people were still waiting in line.

Now, a Change.org petition demanding a re-vote in Sydney has garnered over 34,000 signatures at the time of writing. The petition reads:

The Indonesian community in Sydney, Australia wants a repeat presidential election. During the April 13, 2019 election held in Sydney, hundreds of Indonesians who had the right to vote were not permitted to exercise their rights even though they had been queueing from noon. The lengthy process and the incompetence of Sydney's overseas election committee caused the queue to not end until 6 PM... It is our hope that the KPU, Bawaslu and President Joko Widodo can hear, investigate and approve our demands.


A member of Sydney's election committee, Hermanus, defended the decision to close the polling station at 6 PM to Indonesian media Merdeka, claiming that it was in accordance with the rules of the elections committee. His defence was also supported by the KPU.

A similar situation took place in Hong Kong. Official witnesses at the city’s polling stations claimed that only 27,411 from 180,000 eligible voters were able to cast their vote on Sunday. According to the Hong Kong Free Press, around 30 Indonesians entered the polling station by force, 90 minutes after the votes were closed. Emergency services were called to handle the situation.

“Since Consul-General Tri Tharyat promised us that the polling station would be open until all voters had a chance to cast their ballots, we left the line to come back later when there would be less people,” Hong Kong-based Indonesian woman named Wardah told the Hong Kong Free Press.


While you're here, watch what young Indonesian voters think of the 2019 election:


"Now you are telling us that the polling station has closed. That’s wrong because at the entrance, there was a sign that said ‘7 AM to 11 PM Opening Hours.’ That’s why we made our way inside."

Enraged Indonesians who were denied voting abroad took to social media to vent off their frustrations, most notably Basuki Tjahja Purnama, the former Jakarta governor who was recently released after serving time in prison on blasphemy charges. He cast his vote in Osaka, Japan.

As quoted by Indonesian media Tempo, he felt he was being a being misled by an alleged local voting ballot committee member who did not allow him to vote because he allegedly didn't meet the voting requirements.

“I was almost duped by someone just now," Purnama said in a video that's gone viral since the accident. "I wasn’t allowed to queue despite having already listed in the final voter list."

The KPU has stated that an investigation will be carried out by the election supervisory committee (Panwaslu) and the supervisory agency (Bawaslu) to examine the complaints and potential violations at poll stations abroad. For now, it's still deciding on what to do with the current situation in Sydney.