Indonesia wrestles with poll logistics, presidential hopefuls jostle for supremacy


National Democratic Institute

National Democratic Institute

Sixteen years after the fall of long-ruling dictator Suharto, Indonesia has developed into a thriving, boisterous democracy, where structural problems such as corruption and inequality persist but are freely discussed, Ben Bland writes for The Financial Times:

Indonesia is preparing to hold one of the world’s most complicated elections at a crucial juncture for the third-biggest democracy after India and the US. Indonesians will choose a new parliament on April 9 and then vote for the presidency in July, with a run-off election in September if no presidential candidate gets more than 50 per cent of the vote.

Fears about vote buying and poll manipulation are widespread as Indonesia prepares to hold one of the world’s most complicated elections at a crucial juncture for the third-biggest democracy after India and the US, he adds:

With more than 50m voters under the age of 30, Titi Anggraini, the executive director of Perludem, an independent election watchdog, hopes that young, tech-savvy activists can help to keep wayward politicians and officials in check through social media.

“The level of transparency from the KPU is far better than previous elections and I believe this openness will be followed by participation from young voters and others,” she says.

On April 9, Indonesians will elect members of the national level legislatures and sub-national legislatures in what is one of the most complex electoral events globally, IFES adds:

There are 4 million election officials in over 545,000 polling stations across a country of 17,000 islands, managing 775 million ballot papers in 2,450 different designs to get 19,699 candidates elected for 532 legislatures at national and sub-national level.

To help you understand this multifaceted electoral process, the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) provides Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) on Elections in Indonesia: 2014 National Legislative Elections. IFES FAQs include:

What is the election management body? What are its powers?

How are the legislative bodies structured?

What is the legal framework for elections?

What technology will be used?

Download IFES’ FAQs on Elections in Indonesia: 2014 National Legislative Elections.

Corruption fears over Indonesian polls



As Indonesia prepares to elect a new parliament and president in the coming months, Deutsche Welle examines how political graft is undermining the Southeast Asian country’s democratic and economic achievements of the past decade.

Many analysts regard Indonesia’s accomplishments after the overthrow of longstanding authoritarian ruler Suharto in 1998 as remarkable. The world’s largest Muslim democracy with more than 250 million people has not only managed to expand its economy at an average rate of 5.5 percent over the past decade.

It has also undertaken “one of the most ambitious institutional reform programs attempted anywhere,” by rapidly decentralizing power, creating a constitutional court and a powerful anti-corruption commission,” according to the US-based National Democratic Institute (NDI). …..

NDI Senior Program Officer David Caragliano argues in a recently published article on that with no clear presidential front-runner and a higher parliamentary threshold for parties to enter the national legislature, the elections could be the most closely contested in the nation’s history. Therefore, he argues, “the incentives for increased electoral manipulation, vote buying and fraud are clear, at a time when the independence and competence of electoral administrative bodies are increasingly under question.”


Salvador and Costa Rica polls: Central America ‘turning left’?

Credit: The Economist


Leftist candidates did surprisingly well in yesterday’s elections in El Salvador and Costa Rica, The Economist reports:

Though not well enough to avoid second-round run-offs in the next few months, the results are likely to rattle the conservative bastions of Central America.

The almost ten-point lead that Salvador Sánchez Cerén (pictured left), a former guerrilla of the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN) in El Salvador, took over his right-wing rival was well beyond the margin of victory expected by most pollsters. However, his 48.9%, with almost all votes counted, was just shy of the 50% plus one vote he needed for a first-round victory.

Even more of a shock was the wafer-thin lead that political outsider Luis Guillermo Solís (pictured right) took in Costa Rica, after focusing his campaign on government corruption. Polls had mostly put the former diplomat in fourth place in the run-up to the elections, constantly below another left-leaning candidate, José Maria Villalta. Mr Villalta came in third, but if their supporters unite they could oust the ruling National Liberation Party (PLN) candidate in the run-off. Mr Solís had 31%, the PLN’s Johnny Araya 29.6% and Mr Villalta 17.1%.

The candidates will head to a second round later this spring after the leading contenders failed to get enough votes to win outright, in contests that tested the power of incumbent parties, Randal C. Archibold reports for the New York Times:

El Salvador and Costa Rica, put incumbent parties to the test on Sunday in what were expected to be closely fought presidential elections that focused less on ideology than on unease over unemployment, corruption and crime.

In El Salvador, the left-leaning Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front, known as the F.M.L.N., sought to hold on to the presidency, which it won for the first time in 2009. … In Costa Rica, Johnny Araya — a former mayor of San Jose, the capital, and the candidate of the incumbent, centrist National Liberation Party — fought a surge in polls by José María Villalta, a young left-leaning lawmaker who capitalized on voters’ anger about unemployment, crime and corruption scandals that have put President Laura Chinchilla’s approval ratings among the lowest in Latin America.

Conservatives in El Salvador “no longer say Venezuela or Cuba are going to rule El Salvador, like they said five years ago,” said José Maria Tojeira, a former rector at the Universidad Centroamericana who closely follows Salvadoran politics. “The fear of ideological extremism has ended.”

“The most important thing for the Salvadoran people right now is security,” said Luis Gonzalez, 58, a federal worker who said he had voted for Mr. Saca. “People are dying indiscriminately from such a big wave of violence.”

The wide field in Costa Rica was a sign of the fragmentation of parties and ideologies, said Kevin Casas-Zamora, a former vice president who is now political secretary at the Organization of American States.

“Party loyalty has all but dissolved,” Mr. Casas-Zamora said. “The feeling is there is a desire to reject the status quo, less of a commitment to ideology.”

The political fragmentation will make it hard to pass laws through a legislature where no party has a majority, said Bruce Wilson, a professor at the University of Central Florida.

“That is an even bigger mess,” he said. “There doesn’t seem to be a mass mandate, from the polling data. If Congress is so fractious, to get your agenda through will be very difficult.”

Perhaps a partnership of sorts between Mr Saca and the FMLN could act as a mild restraint on Mr Sánchez Cerén’s Bolivarian leanings, The Economist suggests:

That would be positive. It’s one thing for a poverty and violence-afflicted region to want a leftist president with programs that focus on the poor, and a good anti-corruption record. It would be another if the region lurched to the populist left, in the mould of Nicaragua’s Daniel Ortega, just as such leaders in Venezuela and Argentina are beginning to pay for their follies with severe economic crises.


Elections don’t matter, institutions do?

The genius of Western civilization in general is that of institutions. Sure, democracy is a basis for this; but democracy is, nevertheless, a separate factor, according to Robert D. Kaplan, Chief Geopolitical Analyst at Stratfor.

Institutions are such a mundane element of Western civilization that we tend to take them for granted, he writes for RealClearWorld. Successful institutions treat everyone equally and impersonally. This is not the case in Russia or Pakistan or Nigeria.

Institutions, or the lack of them, explain much that has happened in the world in recent decades. Following the collapse of the Berlin Wall, Central Europe went on to build functioning democracies and economies. With all of their problems and challenges, the Baltic states, Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary have not fared badly and in some cases have been rousing success stories. This is because these societies boast high literacy rates among both men and women and have a tradition of modern bourgeois culture prior to World War II and communism. And it is literacy and middle class culture that are the building blocks of successful institutions.

The Balkans have been less fortunate, with bad government and unimpressive growth the fare in Romania since 1989, semi-chaos rearing its head in Albania and Bulgaria, and inter-ethnic war destroying the Yugoslav federation in the 1990s. …..

Then there is the greater Middle East. The so-called Arab Spring failed because the Arab world was not like Central and Eastern Europe. It had low literacy, especially among women. It had little or no tradition of a modern bourgeois, despite commercial classes in some cities, and so no usable institutions to fall back upon once dictatorships crumbled. ….

Elections are easy to hold and indicate less than journalists and political scientists think. An election is a 24- or 48-hour affair, organized often with the help of foreign observers. But a well-oiled ministry must function 365 days a year. For without basic order there can be no meaningful freedom. And institutions are the foremost tools of order.


Robert D. Kaplan is author of the bestselling book The Revenge of Geography.