#SayaGolput: Why some Indonesians are refusing to vote in Wednesday's election


More than 193 million people are eligible to vote in Indonesia's election on 17 April - but one small group is refusing to do so.


Rhiannon Elston reports from Jakarta, Indonesia.

Five years ago, Joko Widodo swept to victory with the promise of a new democratic era.

Lini Zurlia was among the Indonesians who voted him in.

The 31-year-old openly gay woman (pictured right in the tweet below) says she won’t do it again. She has lost her faith in Indonesia’s incumbent president.

“Jokowi was promising to resolve all the past human rights violations, but in fact he betrayed us,” she tells SBS News.

The turning point, she says, was the moment he appointed conservative Muslim cleric Ma’ruf Amin as his running mate.

In his former role as head of Indonesia’s Ulama Council, Amin helped issue religious decrees against the rights of religious minorities and LGBTIQ+ people. 

Growing fear

“Ma’ruf Amin is an anti-human rights cleric,” says Andreas Harsono from Human Rights Watch Indonesia.

“These two minority groups, LGBT and religious minorities, are discriminated against all over Indonesia in the name of Sharia provision,” he says.

Gay sex is only outlawed in Indonesia’s conservative Aceh province, but persecutions have been reported elsewhere, particularly where arrests have been made under pornography laws.

Zurlia, who is based in Jakarta, says many in the gay community are growing afraid.

“It’s very hard,” she says. “We need to sometimes hide ourselves. We need also sometimes to lower our voices, we need sometimes not to do the protest, for our security.”

A protest in Jakarta
Rhiannon Elston/SBS News

She doesn’t see Joko’s opponent Prabowo Subianto - a former military general accused of human rights abuses - as an alternative, so she’ll be protest voting on Wednesday, writing the phrase “saya golput” or “I abstain” on her ballot paper.

At a small protest rally in Jakarta on Saturday, about 30 others pledged to do the same.

On social media, the idea has taken root.

“It was a social media creation,” says Dr Ross Tapsell, a media, gender and culture academic at the University of Melbourne.

“It’s really very urban-based, young, millennial voters who have been disillusioned with the options that they’ve got.”

But while the idea is growing in popularity, it may not pose a major threat to Jokowi’s campaign.

“It’s still a minority, a very small minority of people,” Dr Tapsell says. 

And on Twitter, plenty criticise the idea.

“This is so sad. There’s nothing to be proud of by doing this,” wrote one.

But for Lini Zurlia, it’s a patriotic act.

“By not to vote for either of these candidates, I also fight for the future of this democracy.”

Rhiannon Elston is reporting on the election from Indonesia for SBS News. Follow her on Twitter @RhiannonElston

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