Indonesia: "Get-out-the vote" campaign reaches unusual target groups

02 Apr 2009

UNDP increases awareness among voters of the importance of democratic processes
Getting out the vote is no easy feat in Indonesia. With more than 170 million eligible voters, half a million polling stations and five million poll workers, innovation in voter education is essential for the April 9 parliamentary elections. Even the most marginalized of sex workers, people with disabilities, first-time voters and elderly shut-ins are sought out in order to receive voter information. The aim is to ensure that voter education messages reach all corners of this massive archipelago.

These elections are taking place at a critical time for Indonesia and the region. The harsh second-wave impact of the global economic crisis is beginning to take effect with rising unemployment and poverty. Full voter understanding and participation in the elections is an important element in consolidating the democratic process at this juncture.

As part of a $15 million election programme, funded by Australia, Canada, the Netherlands, Spain and the United Kingdom, the UN Development Programme (UNDP) is supporting unusual efforts to improve the quality of political participation and foster high voter turnout.

“We are helping to strengthen the political process by encouraging voters to go out and vote, and understand why they are voting,” says UNDP Country Director, Håkan Björkman. “Everyone has the right to cast their vote. By working with numerous local organizations, we want voter education to reach marginalized individuals who may have been overlooked along the way,” says Mr. Björkman.

‘Wendi’, a 28-year-old sex worker in West Java works at night in a “hotspot” – a cluster of local brothels -- but attends a voter education class during the day. With a grant from UNDP to an organization called Mitra Sehati or Close Partner, ‘Wendi’  learns how and where to vote and why her “tick” mark on the ballot matters.

“We as citizens have the right to vote and are compelled to elect state leaders who will work for our welfare,” says sex worker, ‘Wendi.’ “In the past, we did not understand how we could vote. Now we have important information on the voting procedures,” she says.

Even though Jumono lost his legs 15 years ago from a lengthy illness, he purposefully moves in his wheelchair as an election trainer in Bandung, Indonesia. As a worker with the Bandung Trust Advisory Group, another organization receiving support for election education, Jumono reaches out to the deaf, the blind, the paralyzed and the elderly. He travels door-to-door, leads classes, and meets individually – whatever it takes to disseminate election material.

“Access to voter information for people with disabilities is very limited,” says Jumono. “People with disabilities should enjoy the same rights as others, and that includes voting rights,” he says.

A large youth festival, puppet shows, cultural dances, amusing TV and radio commercials, public dialogues and debates are all part of the creative effort to spread election information to voters young and old.

These initiatives are one segment of a larger $15-million multi-donor programme of support for Indonesia’s elections. The whole three-year programme also provides technical assistance to foster the professional capacities of the election commission, KPU, its Secretariat and its regional offices.

The elections this week will see 12,324 candidates vying for 132 seats in Indonesia’s upper house of parliament and 560 seats in the lower house. Presidential elections will be held in July.

Contact Information

For more information:

In Indonesia:
Riza Iskandar: riza.iskandar@undp.org, + 62 855 101 2671
Olenka Priyadarsani: olenka.priyadarsani@undp.org, +62 812 691 38520

In Thailand :
Cherie Hart: cherie.hart@undp.org, + 66 2 288 2133