Indonesia quiet ahead of elections

Politics in Depok is being dominated by coalition deals. Source: Wikimedia

Indonesians will vote in the country’s first simultaneous local elections on Wednesday (December 9). Around 100 million voters will decide on their regional leaders for the next five years.

The police and army plan to deploy more than 192,000 personnel across the vast archipelago. The country is currently enjoying a lull before the storm during the three-day cooling-off period after months of campaigning.

Before that, election rallies were held across the country.

Political analysts believe parties are using the local elections to build support and recognition ahead of parliamentary polls in 2019. In Depok, West Java, for example, the Democratic Party, Gerindra and PKS have formed a coalition.

Saripah, a Depok resident, said: “I’m still undecided. I’m afraid of their empty promises. Now they promise everything but once they’ve won they don’t fulfil any of them.”

Previous local elections were held every month in some parts of Indonesia, resulting in frequent changes in municipal power. Political scientists are confident the simultaneous elections will make for more stable local government.

“Simultaneous local elections will help the national government improve how they communicate and coordinate on issues that are key to the national priorities, such implementing the national development agenda at the local level,” said Djayadi Hanan, executive director, Saiful Mujani Research and Consulting.

There are 1,800 pairs of candidates in the elections across 269 constituencies with critics claiming local politicians are too influential.

It is hoped a higher calibre of politician will improve governance after this week’s polls.

On a national level, the embattled Speaker of the House of Representatives denied demanding a stake worth billions of dollars in a giant US-owned gold and copper mine in exchange for allegedly helping its operating contract extension.

Speaker Setya Novanto is accused of falsely using the names of President Joko Widodo and Vice President Jusuf Kalla to seek shares in PT Freeport Indonesia.

In June Novanto and a businessman allegedly met Freeport chief executive Maroef Sjamsoeddin and asked for a 20-per-cent stake, in return for an early extension of the firm’s operations licence.

Widodo denied any involvement and expressed anger at Novanto’s alleged actions.

The case has dominating the news agenda for several weeks and is being seen as one of the biggest political scandals in years. Indonesia remains one of the most corrupt in Asia.

Freeport has agreed to divest 30 per cent of its Indonesian arm as part of its investment agreement with the government. It has asked for an extension of its current contract, which ends in 2021, before investing billions of dollars more in its Grasberg mine.

Grasberg in troubled Papua province is one of the world’s largest gold and copper mines. It has experienced frequent violent protests by workers, while activist groups have complained of alleged pollution and unfair distribution of profits.

It is run by Freeport-McMoRan of Phoenix, Arizona, and produces around 220,000 tonnes of ore a day.

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