Jakarta. It did not take long for pictures of blue-tipped fingers to pop up on various social media platforms, as Indonesians across the archipelago began casting their votes for the country’s next president in the morning of July 9.
In the days leading up to the highly anticipated election, tweets and Facebook posts rang out across cyberspace reminding constituents to document their experience at voting stations to prove their participation — a task the selfie-loving nation was more than glad to carry out.
A large group of concerned citizens, however, decided to take the idea a step further and took it upon themselves to not only witness the vote counting process at their respective polling stations, but also take snapshots of the official tally to ensure transparency.
On voting day, Facebook, Twitter and Path were inundated with pictures of the C1 form, the piece of paper summarizing the vote count at each polling station.
Asep Saefudin, for instance, after casting his vote at a polling station in Depok, south of Jakarta, decided to hang around until the voting was over. Once the polling station officials had concluded the counting, tabulated it on the C1 form and signed it, and announced the results, Asep immediately took a photo of the document and uploaded to his Facebook account.
It showed a dead tie between Prabowo Subianto and Joko Widodo, with 221 votes apiece.
“That was my concrete contribution for the presidential candidate I support,” Asep, a screenwriter, told the Jakarta Globe on Thursday.
He said he also visited the local ward office to ensure that the tally from his polling station was not doctored on the C1 form. He said he was determined to participate in “guarding the vote count” until the General Elections Commission (KPU) announces the official results on July 22.
“I want to help send my future leader to the presidential seat so I have to guard the vote,” Asep said.
Nino Susanto, 33-year-old entrepreneur from Yogyakarta, said this election marked the first time since he was eligible to vote that felt the strong urge to be involved in witnessing the vote count.
“I voted at 10 a.m in the morning but I went back to the polling station 15 minutes before the voting was over because I was very excited to witness everything,” he said.
“The last time I voted I went home right away because I thought the vote count was someone else’s responsibility. But this time I wanted to witness everything,” he said, adding that he also uploaded a photo of the C1 form to his social media account.
Nino said he felt it was important to safeguard his right as a voter because the stakes were so high in this presidential election.
“I don’t think the current regime will sit and do nothing given the possibility of losing their power, and therefore they will do anything it takes to secure victory,” Nino said.
The ruling Democratic Party of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono is backing Prabowo.
“The voluntarism in on the rise,” said Ari Dwipayana, a political observer at Yogyakarta’s Gadjah Mada University. “People are starting to show the willingness to get involved, first in the political campaign and now in the vote count. We are seeing a very strong volunteer movement right now.”
Ari said the media had played an important role in disseminating information and awareness about the importance of monitoring the vote count.
The urgency of getting involved in the election and the vote count was also triggered by skepticism about the performance of government institutions in ensuring a free and fair election, Ari said.
The absence of trust, he said, triggered the independent grassroots movement.
“The election organizing committees and even the Bawaslu [Elections Supervisory Body] are deemed incapable of settling election disputes,” he said.
Ari said grassroots voluntarism in politics was not new for Indonesia. A similar movement rose in the 1999 election, the first after the fall of the Suharto regime in 1998.
Ari said that in both elections, people were frustrated with the government’s inability to run the country properly.
“Amid the frustration people saw a glimpse of hope, and that’s the incentive that drives them to safeguard a fair election, whatever it takes. This kind of sentiment is a powerful tool to create such a movement,” he said.
He added that public participation in vote counting was now more important than ever, given the threat of vote count manipulation at the KPU level.
Contributing in any way
Maulita Iqtianti, the managing editor of Mommiesdaily.com, an online forum focusing on women and family issues, said she chose to monitor the vote count because she believed the presidential election was prone to potential violations.
“There’s a concern that the KPU and Bawaslu are very pro-government and as we know one of the candidates is backed by so many incumbent government officials and they have massive influence,” the 33-year-old said.
Maulita said she was very enthusiastic about contributing in any way she could to the election.
“Everybody in my office agrees that we should watch the vote count, document the results and share the pictures in our group chat forum,” she said.
Maulita said her interest in the election was also spurred by the general euphoria surrounding the five-yearly event.
“Everybody can feel it. This time the hype is very different from previous elections,” she said, adding that she had followed the exit polls from the overseas voting last Sunday and intended to follow the development of the final vote count by KPU until the official announcement.
Clara Siagian, who also took part in the movement to monitor the vote count, said she would continue doing her bit to ensure the election was fair by monitoring the real count vote.
The 27-year-old, who works at a nongovernmental organization, said Wednesday’s ballot was the first time she had voted in an election.
Clara cast her vote at a polling station at the Taman Rasuna apartment block in South Jakarta and uploaded a photo of the C1 form to her Twitter account because she didn’t believe that the KPU would be 100 percent honest and impartial.
“I think the distrust is a general sentiment. Why would people feel the need to guard the vote count if they trusted in the KPU’s integrity and the competence of the people organizing the election?” she said.
Clara said she would follow the online update of the vote count on the KPU’s website.
“Our duty as individuals is not only to cast our vote but also to safeguard our vote, especially because the witnesses at the polling stations are not always reliable,” she said.
Nasrullah, a Bawaslu member, said the role of the candidates’ campaign teams and the public in monitoring the vote count was very crucial.
“We invite the public to monitor and control the counting process at every level. If there’s a mismatch in data, we can immediately correct it with the C1 form data,” he said.
He also urged polling committee members to monitor the movement and transfer of ballot boxes from polling stations to ward, subdistrict, municipal/district provincial and national levels.
Additional reporting by Anastasia Winanti Riesardhy