'Big decision for country’: Indonesians in Singapore turn up in droves to vote in elections

'Big decision for country’: Indonesians in Singapore turn up in droves to vote in elections

The turnout in Singapore at the Indonesia embassy to vote in the upcoming Indonesian presidential elections was about 38,000, an increase from about 22,000 in 2014. Deborah Wong with more. 

SINGAPORE: The neighbourhood was quiet as my ride turned into Chatsworth Road, but it was the proverbial calm before the storm.

Approaching the main gate of the Indonesia embassy in Singapore, it was clear that there were many Indonesians based here who are looking to make their vote count in this year’s presidential elections.

This time, their choice is a familiar one: Current president Joko Widodo, more affectionately known as Jokowi, and former general Prabowo Subianto, who reprise their contest from the 2014 elections. 

While the actual elections will be held on Apr 17, overseas Indonesians get the chance to cast their votes earlier with the embassy in Singapore conducting the polling on Sunday (Apr 14) morning. 

About 450 Indonesians are helping out with the polling process.

Other embassies who are also holding their polling activities include those in Vietnam, Malaysia and Philippines. 

One of those standing at the front of the queue before the doors opened at 8am was Ms Diana Kie. 

The 31-year-old, who was second in line, said it was a “big decision for the country”, which motivated her to leave her home early this morning. 

Indonesians in Singapore vote Indonesia election 2019 (1)
Ms Diana Kie was one of the first in line before the embassy gates were opened. "Integrity and responsibility" are characteristics she's looking out for in the presidential candidates. (Photo: Kevin Kwang)

She also heard from her friend in Melbourne, Australia that the queue was “quite crazy” when she had to vote on Saturday.

On the presidential election, she told CNA: “We all have expectations of how the country and the Government should grow … but there’s a lot of politics involved.” She added that the President Jokowi is “doing well”, considering that it’s “not easy to manage Indonesia”.

Asked what factors would help her decide between the two candidates, she said: “Integrity and responsibility.”

Bigman Sirait Indonesian voter who was ill
Mr Bigman Sirait, a Christian priest from Jakarta, was at the Indonesia embassy in Singapore to vote after a recent operation on his heart. (Photo: Deborah Wong)

Christian priest Bigman Sirait, who recently had heart surgery, came to vote in an ambulance.

He said that doctors initially did not want to let him leave, but they reached a compromise with officials, who brought the voting slip to Mr Bigman in the ambulance.

"I may be sick but I will fight the battle. What's the point of confessing to be an Indonesian if I do nothing today. If I don't exercise my right to stand to be counted, I'm a coward," he said. 

Foreign domestic worker Rasam was another who was up early this morning. She said she reached the Indonesia embassy at 6.20am as the presidential election and the position of president are “very important” for the country. 

Indonesians in Singapore vote Indonesia election 2019
Foreign domestic workers Rasam (right), 46, and her friend Siti Amirah, 42, started queuing since 6.20am. (Photo: Kevin Kwang)

“(The candidates’) past actions and achievements helped me decide on which candidate to choose from,” the 46-year-old added.

Similarly, businessman Darma was happy to have arrived early and cast his vote. 

“Every five years, it is the right of every Indonesian to vote,” the 46-year old said. “And every vote counts.”

To him, this presidential race boils down to whether one wants a fresh voice in power or to continue with the current mandate. “It’s quite a stark contrast actually, between populism and progressiveness,” Darma said. 

READ: Calls for Indonesia's envoy to Malaysia to be dismissed amid accusations of election fraud

Student Bing Halim, who has been in Singapore for the past three years, was clear about his choice as he left the polling booth.

The 22-year-old said that he and his family felt that it was “better if Jokowi stays as president”.

Indonesians in Singapore vote Indonesia election 2019
Student Bing Halim, 22, says this is not the first time he's voting, but he's doing so more out of obligation as he's "not into politics". (Photo: Kevin Kwang)

Among the voters was also former Indonesian president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, whose wife is currently being treated at the National University Hospital (NUH) for blood cancer.

Yudhoyono added that his wife also voted and commended the organisation of the event. 

"This is a new experience for me," he said about voting in Singapore. "I'm happy because it is done well. I could see that the organisation is good ... The spirits of the Indonesian people are very good. I'm very happy as a former leader so hopefully it will bring good things for our country."

Media coordinator at the Indonesian embassy Ratna Harjana earlier shared that about 60,000 Indonesians were expected to make their choice at the polling booth on Sunday, with doors expected to close at 6pm. 

A total of 38,106 voters had turned up by the end of the day to cast their votes, an increase from the 22,266 voters who had showed up for the previous presidential elections in 2014, said the Indonesian election commission.

As of Sunday, a total of 8,149 votes had been delivered by mail. The final count will only be known on Apr 17.

The ambassador added that the votes collected today will be held in a secure location within embassy grounds, and counting will take place at the same time as in Indonesia. 

susilo bambang yudhoyono voting
Former Indonesian president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono voting in Singapore on Apr 14, 2019 ahead of the Indonesia presidential elections. 

"This is a very secure location. We have 24/7 CCTV monitoring. We have our national police also here," Mr Ngurah told reporters. 

"We would like to make sure that security is maintained." 

He said "all the apparatus of the election" - election commission, election supervisory board, witnesses from different political parties - are here to ensure the smooth running of the election. 

"(This is) to make sure that everything is done in accordance with the principle of the Indonesia election, which is free, fair and secret," Mr Ngurah said.

Voters in Singapore join about 192 million voters from 34 provinces in electing the eighth president and vice-president of Indonesia come Apr 17. 

Additional reporting by Deborah Wong.

Source: CNA/hm/aa

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