Activists show their fingers dipped in white ink, signifying their refusal to vote in this year's election, at the offices of the Indonesian Legal Aid Foundation (YLBHI) in Jakarta on Saturday. (JG Photo/Nur Yasmin)

Voting Abstention Group Demands Political Reform


APRIL 14, 2019

Jakarta. While the presidential candidates made the final pitches in their political campaigns, activists from various background gathered at the offices of the Indonesian Legal Aid Foundation, or YLBHI, in Jakarta on Saturday to declare their resolution to abstain from voting in this year's election.

The movement, known as Golongan Putih, or Golput, is deeply rooted in resistance against the suppression of human rights during the military dictatorship of former President Suharto. The activists insist that little progress has been made so far by President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo, who surrounded himself with former generals with tainted human right records from Suharto's New Order regime.


His rival, Prabowo Subianto, meanwhile, comes with heavy baggage of past human rights abuses of his own. 

"The two contestants fighting for power in our country are still ignoring the basic rights of the people," Nining Elitos, chairwoman of the Congress Alliance of Indonesian Labor Unions (Kasbi), said in her statement of why she refuses to vote.

"In Gresik [in East Java], a union member is imprisoned for fighting to eliminate outsourcing. At Karawang [in West Java], a worker fights for his rights but is prosecuted for illegal activity," she said, adding that workers are treated as mere objects by those seeking power.

Activists from various other fields also voiced their discontent.

"The urban poor are flooded by promises and political contracts that have been signed by our [current] president," said Elisa Sanwijaya, a social development activist.

"There is no good intention from either of them [presidential candidates] to change the policies... For example, we repeatedly witness land expropriation, in the form of forced evictions by the government and the private sector in cities or villages. In one case, farmers' land was used to build an airport," she added.

"This abstention [from voting] is indeed nothing compared with the big policies that are so destructive, but this is a personal punishment for them," Elisa said.