February 6, 2024
JAKARTA – With just over a week left before the 2024 simultaneous elections, the government has highlighted its commitment to assisting thousands of people with mental disorders or disabilities across Indonesia to exercise their voting rights on Feb. 14.
The Social Affairs Ministry is the latest to share its plan to help 820 people with mental disorders, who are all treated in the ministry’s social rehabilitation centers, to vote during the presidential and legislative elections next week.
The ministry is seeking the General Elections Commission’s (KPU) help to change the voting locations of those with mental disorders under its care so that they do not have to travel home to vote.
As for the patients who have been discharged from the rehabilitation centers, the ministry will help arrange with the poll body where they should vote.
“If they’re outside [our centers], we’ll check on who is [fit enough] to exercise their right to vote,” the secretary of the social rehabilitation directorate general at the ministry, Salahudin Yahya, said on Wednesday, as quoted by Antara.
The 2015 Regional Elections Law initially banned people who have “mental or memory problems” from casting their vote. But the Constitutional Court ruled later in the year that the provisions in question were discriminatory and unconstitutional.
The amendments to the General Election Law, which regulates presidential and legislative elections, have since removed and excluded any such provisions. The prevailing 2022 KPU regulation on what constitutes voters also describes people with mental and intellectual disabilities as eligible voters and puts them in one of six categories of disabled people in the elections.
People with mental disorders can go to hospitals or rehabilitation centers to be screened by doctors and be given a note of approval if they are deemed fit and capable of voting.
Local poll agencies’ readiness
Thousands of mentally ill and disabled people have been recorded on the voter lists across the country.
In Jakarta, there are some 22,800 people with mental illness and over 1,000 with intellectual disabilities registered as voters, according to the KPU Jakarta office’s data and information division head Fahmi Zikrillah last month.
These voters are among the 61,700 people with disabilities recorded to vote in Jakarta. There are more than 8.2 million final voters in total in the capital.
Meanwhile, some 32,000 people with a mental disorder and nearly 8,000 with an intellectual disability in West Java are set to vote in the province.
Provinces in the western part of the country, like North Sumatra, record a similar number of these voters, while South Sulawesi in eastern Indonesia has recorded almost 11,000 mentally disabled voters, according to various news reports.
These figures are backed by local KPU branches’ commitment to being as disability-friendly as possible, including for mentally disabled voters, which it expressed in the last couple of months.
“For those with mental disabilities, local poll administrators [KPPS] have two members in each polling station who are ready to assist them,” KPU Jakarta technical division head Fitriani was quoted as saying by Antara in January.
While hailed for its inclusivity, the participation of people with mentally disabilities has long incited controversy among the public. Some still believe they are incapable of forming a sound decision, and hoaxes about how certain parties use them to choose their preferred candidates are also rife.
Election law lecturer Titi Anggraini of the University of Indonesia shared this concern in late December, pushing for the KPU to anticipate any possible manipulation.
“Voting is not compulsory, so no one can be forced to do so, let alone be mobilized,” Titi said at the time, kompas.com reported.
The Social Affairs Ministry last week said that it would disseminate information about election candidates to mentally disabled patients in its rehabilitation centers at least a week before voting day. It also made sure the patients’ companions signed a pledge of neutrality when assisting them at the polling booths.
KPU West Java office’s voters education and participation division head Hedi Ardia also vouched for mentally disabled voters, saying that they have capability to exercise their rights to vote, Antara reported.