January 4, 2024
JAKARTA – Concerns are growing around the General Elections Commission’s (KPU) capacity to hold fair and transparent elections for Indonesian voters residing overseas, following an early disbursement of ballot papers in Taiwan and sudden changes to polling methods less than two months before the Feb. 14 polling day.
A video recently circulating on social media showed an Indonesian living in Taipei already receiving mail containing official ballot papers for the 2024 presidential and legislative elections.
The user had already received the ballots despite the KPU’s official schedule mandating all Overseas Election Committees (PPLNs) to distribute ballots to the Indonesian diaspora by mail between Jan. 2 and 11. Voters are required to send their ballots back to their local committee before the counting days that start on Feb. 15.
“We suspect there’s an administration violation by the Taipei PPLN [for disbursing the ballots earlier than scheduled],” said Elections Supervisory Agency (Bawaslu) official Puadi on Dec. 28, as quoted by Antara.
After checking with the Taipei PPLN, the KPU found that the committee had sent around 62,500 ballot papers for the presidential and legislative elections by mail to 31,000 voters in Taiwan on Dec. 18 and 25.
KPU chairman Hasyim Asy’ari said the Taipei election committee intentionally disbursed the ballots earlier than scheduled anticipating the closure of the Taiwanese post office between Feb. 8 and 14 due to the Chinese New Year; meaning voters would have a smaller window to send their ballots back compared with diasporas in other countries.
“The majority of Indonesian voters in Taiwan are also migrant workers with various and strict working hours. Some get one day off per week, others once in two weeks and the rest once a month,” Hasyim said in a recent live-streamed press briefing.
“There was a concern that they would not be able to send back their ballots on time,” he continued.
The Taipei PPLN handles the second-most Indonesian voters abroad with almost 240,000 people across Taiwan, behind the Kuala Lumpur PPLN which is responsible for 491,000 voters for the 2024 general election.
Hasyim admitted “oversight” from the Taipei election committee, which caused the incident. The KPU also decided that the ballots sent early would be deemed invalid.
The election organizer ordered the committee members to send the remaining 144,000 ballots starting Tuesday according to the schedule.
KPU commissioner Idham Holik said on Monday that the local election committee would send new ballots for 31,000 voters who previously received the invalid papers. The new ballots would be marked to differentiate them from the old ones, he said as quoted by Antara.
The KPU would also give administrative sanctions to members of the Taipei PPLN, although the commission had yet to decide on the form of punishment.
Confusing sudden changes
Migrant workers advocacy group Migrant CARE slammed the KPU for the early ballot distribution in Taipei, calling for the commission to pay more serious attention to the electoral process overseas.
“It showed that the election organizers still carry out voting overseas haphazardly, carelessly and unprofessionally,” the group executive director Wahyu Susilo said in a recent statement. “The incident created uncertainty among Indonesian voters in Taipei and other cities across the globe.”
The advocacy group further called on Bawaslu to monitor the case, in an attempt to restore Indonesian voters’ trust in the election.
The KPU has also been in the spotlight for its recent decision to change overseas voting methods in several major cities less than two months from voting day.
The election organizer scrapped the mobile ballot box voting method for nearly 400 registered Indonesian voters in Prague as the local election committee failed to obtain permits from local authorities.
Overseas voters usually cast their vote using one of three methods: postal voting, going to a nearby polling station or through a mobile ballot box, which is carried out by local election officials going directly to voters’ houses or workplaces.
In Hong Kong, the local PPLN could only open four polling stations in the city, a significant drop from 31 in the previous elections. Local authorities advised the Hong Kong PPLN to refrain from erecting voting stations due to security reasons.
The KPU would rely on postal voting to accommodate more than 164,000 eligible voters in Hong Kong.
On the other hand, election committees in Frankfurt, Germany, and New York, the United States, have requested more onsite polling stations and mobile ballot boxes to accommodate the huge number of voters in both cities.
Frankfurt and New York have more than 11,000 registered voters, according to data from the KPU.
Titi Anggraini, election law expert from the University of Indonesia, urged the KPU to properly inform voters about the rule changes to help them exercise their voting rights properly and prevent gaps that increased the risk of election fraud, as reported by kompas.id.
Migrant CARE also expressed concerns that a heavy reliance on postal voting would negatively impact voter turnout, as many migrant workers preferred to vote in the onsite polling stations.
The KPU estimated there are over 1.7 million overseas voters for the 2024 elections spread over 128 countries and territories. (nal/fia)