In The News

After a Lively Election, What’s Next for Indonesia’s Mobilized Civil Society?

August 13, 2014

Just weeks after election results declared former Jakarta governor Joko Widodo (“Jokowi”) as Indonesia’s presidential front-runner, the president-elect’s team of volunteers announced that he would be crowdsourcing his cabinet. Through an online survey, anyone can choose from a list of three names for each of the 34 ministerial seats. The survey also includes a box where people can suggest their own candidates. The move no doubt reflects a huge push in this election toward greater access to information and transparency. The participation of Indonesia’s civil society in promoting the integrity of the 2014 presidential election has been more diverse and active than in the two previous presidential elections, and has served a vital role in balancing the power of the contesting parties and in overseeing the performance of the election organizers to ensure an honest, fair, and transparent election.

Indonesia’s civil society  played a significant role in promoting the integrity of the 2014 presidential election and served a vital role in overseeing the performance of the election organizers to ensure an honest, fair, and transparent election.

Indonesia’s civil society played a significant role in promoting the integrity of the 2014 presidential election and served a vital role in overseeing the performance of the election organizers to ensure an honest, fair, and transparent election.

Civil society organizations active during the election included not only those with a particular attention to electoral issues, such as Perludem, the People’s Voter Education Network (JPPR), and the Independent Election Observer Committee (KIPP), but also organizations focused on sectoral issues such as counter-corruption (Indonesia Corruption Watch, Transparency International Indonesia), environmental management (Walhi, Jatam, Sawit Watch, ICEL, Kiara), budget transparency (Fitra), public services (Ecosoc Rights, Yappika), legal reform (PSHK, the Legal Aid Institute network), women’s empowerment (Indonesian Women’s Coalition, Women’s Solidarity), and disability rights (SIGAB, PPUA Penca).

In addition, there have been initiatives that mobilize individuals to actively participate in monitoring the recapitulation of voting results in order to safeguard against manipulation by the candidates or the election organizers.

By working together, civil society has played a significant role in the success of this year’s presidential election in four predominant ways:

  1. Ensuring the constitutional rights of voters are protected by laws and regulations, including that eligible voters can vote easily and without barriers, especially for those with disabilities. CSOs at the national level conducted advocacy and public campaigns before and during the preparation of the voter lists to ensure that all eligible voters were included. Other CSOs helped to obtain legal requirements associated with the stages of the presidential election, such as Perludem, which filed a Judicial Review to the Constitutional Court regarding the lack of legal basis for a two-round election with only two candidate pairs.
  2. Improving the knowledge and critical thinking of the electorate through awareness campaigns. CSOs produced and disseminated a range of educational materials not only to improve voter knowledge on how to vote, but also to develop their critical assessment in scrutinizing the programs and track records of presidential candidates. Organizations focusing on sectoral issues were particularly active in dissecting and comparing the campaign agendas and positions on strategic issues of each candidate. Some CSOs, such as Solidaritas Perempuan (Women’s Solidarity), Bengkel APPeK in Kupang, and Malang Corruption Watch, encouraged dialogue between local communities and candidates and their campaign teams to help them better understand local problems and priorities, and to help community members gather complete information on a candidate’s agenda before voting. As has been well documented, CSOs more than ever before have turned to social media for voter education.
  3. Increasing community participation in election monitoring to minimize fraud and vote buying, as well as to reduce intimidation and violence. In addition, attention was also given to monitor the neutrality of the election management bodies and local governments. In South Sulawesi, for example, FIK Ornop deployed 2,256 volunteers recruited by 14 member organizations to conduct monitoring in the city of Makassar and several other districts. In Aceh, the Aceh NGO Forum together with five other CSOs formed the Aceh Election Network to conduct monitoring in several districts and routinely report on findings.To increase public involvement in monitoring activities, some CSOs utilized information technology to crowdsource reports. JPPR, for example, launched the website, pantaupemilu.org, to conduct volunteer training and which received hundreds of public reports on the results of monitoring. Prominent counter-corruption organization ICW invited the public to report on vote buying through its site, politikuang.net, while Perludem working together with AJI Jakarta sourced online monitor reporting through matamassa.org. [Watch a video about Perludem’s pre-election hackathons held in partnership with The Asia Foundation to promote the development of mobile election related apps.]
  4. Building a discourse to address the issues of peace and reconciliation during the election. For example, the Aceh Institute organized an “Aceh Election Club” that brought together stakeholders such as the KPU (General Elections Commission), Election Supervisory Body, the police, public prosecutors, the media, and university representatives to discuss pressing issues relating to the elections including how to work with the public to decipher negative “smear” campaigning or untruthful tactics. Civil society activists spoke out in favor of the credible quick count results in the hours after polls closed and appealed to candidates and their supporters to avoid violence and promote reconciliation after the presidential election.

The rapid development of information technology has become a new vehicle to increase public participation in the 2014 elections beyond involvement in formal civil society organizations, as reflected in the “Kawal Pemilu” (guard the elections) movement. This movement, which was made up of a team of 700 volunteers, was conducted independently based on the spirit of protecting the values of democratic elections. By verifying the vote tabulation from each polling station based on the results of official data uploaded by the KPU and then displaying this information in real-time to the public through its website kawalpemilu.org, Kawal Pemilu made a significant contribution in maintaining the transparency of the vote tabulation and in preventing possible manipulation of the results. It’s interesting to note that Kawal Pemilu did not emerge from activists in an organization working in the field of democracy and governance, but rather from interested IT professionals and individual citizens interested in playing a role in a fair, transparent election.

Take away this active civil society participation, and the election would have suffered from far less information, less vibrant debate on issues, less independent scrutiny, and less overall legitimacy. With vibrant and active CSOs and a growing spirit of volunteerism and individual activism, this is an important moment for Indonesia to define the future civil society agenda in support of electoral integrity. The challenge now lies in the sustainability of such collective action.

Lili Hasanuddin is a program manager for The Asia Foundation in Indonesia. He can be reached at lili.hasanuddin@asiafoundation.org. The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and not those of The Asia Foundation.

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