On 5 March 2019, the Embassy of Indonesia hosted a panel discussion to discuss the prospects and challenges surrounding the upcoming political event. The event aims to provide a brief update for UK businesses, academics, government and the general public with interest in Indonesia. It featured prominent speakers such as Dr. Philips Vermonte, Executive Director of CSIS Jakarta; Edward McBride, Asia Editor, The Economist and chaired by Dr. Champa Patel of the Chatham House.

The 2019 election will be the first ever election where the presidential seat and around 20,000 parliamentary seats at all levels of government are contested at the same time. “With more than 187 million voters, around 800,000 polling stations across 17,000 islands, seems like a real logistical challenge”, said Ambassador Sukma at his opening remarks. However, the Ambassador is adamant that the country, who has experienced direct election since 1955, will be able to deliver it in a peaceful and orderly manner.

Dr. Vermonte highlighted the shift in Indonesian voter’s behavior which tend to be more rational in making their political decision. Based on the 2018 regional election, some key provinces were won by technocrats. The rise of urban leaders into national-level politics are also apparent, which will likely set the trend for future Indonesian political contests. Meanwhile, Edward offered an outsider’s perspective stating that while Indonesia’s democratic performance to be the best in the region but still more needs to be done to ensure an open and inclusive political participation. Both speakers agree that the rise of negative campaigns as well as the use of identity politics continue to pose a real challenge although only a small proportion of voters are active on social media. Such a phenomenon occurs not only in Indonesia but also in other democracies as well.

In anticipation of the International Women’s Day, 8 March 2019, the discussion also featured two leading Indonesian women politicians, Mrs. Lena Maryana Mukti of the United Development Party (PPP) and Mrs. Dian Fatwa of the National Mandate Party (PAN). More than half of the Indonesian population are women yet representations in parliament remains limited, although in 2008 the statutory quota of 30% women has been introduced. Considering the fact, both speakers shared their experiences in encouraging the government as well as their own political parties to ensure more women representation in the parliament.

The Indonesian presidential and parliamentary election are held once in every 5 years. Responsibility to hold the general election falls on the General Election Commission (Komisi Pemilihan Umum), a legally independent body. The KPU guarantees that Indonesians overseas will continue to have their rights to vote. The Indonesian Embassy will host around 2,000 Indonesians to vote at the Embassy and facilitate the remaining 5,000 registered voters to cast their vote through absentee ballot.