Before the General Election: Are You(th) Ready?

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There is a first time for everything. There is a first time for voters and there is a first time for PUSKAPA to organize a learning series specifically addressing youth. The General Election Commissions (KPU) records 17,501,278 voters under the age of 20 years, which means these people will vote for the first time in their life. While some of us are proclaiming their support for the candidate they believe in, and the candidates are all campaigning to attract voters, we find it extremely important to focus on making sure that these first time and young voters are equipped with information on issues involving youth, before they decide on the candidates.


These days, we witness populist jargons trump clear ideas, and politicians would occasionally pay lip service by mentioning millennials as the future of the nation. Beyond these normative soundbites, what are the real solutions proposed by the political candidates? What are the things that need to be known by the young voters to make an informed decision on election day?


To discuss these issues, on Wednesday, February 20th, 2019, PUSKAPA organized a learning series titled Are You(th) Ready? The event is moderated by Atissa Puti (Youth Network on Violence Against Children) and attended by Anggara Suwahju (Institute for Criminal Justice Reform) and Rendy Adriyan Diningrat (The SMERU Research Institute) as guest speakers. The discussion is intended to be the first of a three-part series where young people are engaged in an interactive political but not partisan conversation to help them better shape their opinion before casting their vote.


Anggara talked about the freedom of expression and how it is enshrined in the Indonesian 1945 Constitution. In the age where the ITE and blasphemy laws are used as weapons to silence opposition, the question of freedom of speech becomes even more relevant. Government and parliament occasionally state that such freedom has gone too far. Anggara disagreed with this. “Quite the contrary,” he said, “this freedom is an enabling right that makes other rights possible. This right has also resulted in a more accountable government, open dialogue and even growth in the creative sector.”


Having been raised during the New Order era, Anggara has the unique position of witnessing the political shift before and after the 1998 Reformation. This experience became important as he highlighted his experience during the Soeharto decades and how things had changed over the years since. Discrimination against minorities – in all their forms – still exist and often accepted by the dominant majority. Young people need to be aware of this and vote for candidates who do not further the discriminations.


Continuing the discussion, Rendy cited several statistics about the issues faced by youth in the areas of education, poverty, and health. One of the most highlighted statistics is that It turns out that only 25% of Indonesian population aged 19-24 years who go to college (Thee and Hill, 2013).


After the initial opening presentations, two rounds of Q&A were given to the audience. Several interesting concerns were raised. A participant remarked that so much attention was given to the presidential election at the expense of overlooking the parliamentary election that is equally important. What can we do to ensure that the right people get to represent us? What needs to be done after election day? What can young people do to ensure that their representatives voice their needs?


Both speakers agreed that democracy does not stop at election day and hard work is needed to hold parliament members accountable to our mandates. Young voters were encouraged to look up the candidates’ credentials, proactively fact-check claims and continuously remind representatives of their duties. Before ending the session, participants were asked to formulate pressing questions on education and law and human rights. These would be synthesized to be submitted to KPU to be raised during the upcoming presidential debates. PUSKAPA hopes that these questions would put young people at the center stage, before and after the election day.


Two more sessions would still take place in the coming weeks. More insights will be shared, questions asked, and opinions formed. Hopefully, throughout this process, first-time voters can get the information they need to make their voice heard – not just as an age group, but as real citizens of Indonesia.