Binti Rosidah is one of more than 1.6 million Indonesians living and working in Malaysia. She has been working as a domestic worker in Kuala Lumpur, the largest city in the country, for no less than 15 years. In those years, she has missed two general elections. Something she would not have missed if she were back in Indonesia.
In 2014, Rosidah was unable to exercise her right to vote despite being present at the polling station, which was held in a school at the Indonesian Embassy. The Overseas Election Commission said her name was not on the voter list. “I was told that if I came to the polling station I would get a letter. Apparently, I didn’t get it,” She said, recalling the incident that took place more than 9 years ago, to Jaring.id by phone on Monday, September 4, 2023.
So when the pair of Joko Widodo and Jusuf Kalla won with more than 53 percent of the vote over their rival, Prabowo Subianto-Hatta Rajasa, who received 46.85 percent of the vote, Rosidah could only lament the victory. “Even though I asked my employer for permission,” she lamented. It is difficult for domestic workers to get permission to vote in Malaysia, she said.
After five years, Rosidah was confident that she would be able to exercise her voting rights in the 2019 elections. At that time, Jokowi was running as a presidential candidate together with Ma’ruf Amin. Meanwhile, Prabowo’s running mate was Sandiaga Uno. Rosidah admitted that at that time, she was very enthusiastic about the presidential election. So she went online and registered to vote at the local Post Office – a government-designated place. But once again, Rosidah failed to vote. That’s why we didn’t get that letter.” Where did the ballots end up? Who did the voting then?” said Rosidah, who is still confused about the disappearance of her ballot.
In less than 115 days, on Wednesday, February 14, 2024, Indonesia will hold legislative and presidential elections for the term 2024 to 2029. There are already 3 presidential candidates who are expected to participate in the presidential election one month before registration. These are Anies Baswedan, Ganjar Pranowo, and Prabowo Subianto.
For the upcoming Election Democracy Event, Rosidah has registered through the online system provided by the KPU. In order to ensure that she does not score a hat trick, Rosidah is hoping that the Overseas Election Committee will be more proactive in reaching out to voters. “Previously, the verification did not work in 2019, which resulted in poor voter coordination,” she explains.
According to Rosidah, this proactive measure is important because migrant workers are often constrained by the permits required by their employers. This barrier affects not only domestic workers. It also affects palm oil workers in oil refineries. “The Indonesian embassy and the government need to work together so that employers can give permits,” she said.
What Rosidah said was in line with KPU Regulation No. 55 of 2023 on Technical Guidelines for Compiling Lists of Overseas Voters in General Elections. In the regulation, the PPLN is urged to be proactive in registering overseas voters. “The Overseas Voters Committee is asked to visit the voters abroad, to contact the voters by phone or social media, to send letters to the voters by mail, and to send electronic mail to the voters.”
In the regulation, it is stated that voters are only required to fill in the Model A-List of Potential Overseas Voters form by presenting their passport or travel document as a passport (SPLP) prior to verification. “If the voter cannot show the NIK, but the voter has an NIT (single identity number), then the foreign voter registrar may complete the NIK column in the Model A-List of Potential Overseas Voters form by entering the NIT that has been verified by a digital identity,” the KPU regulation stated.
But so far, Rosidah has not received any information or notification about the DPT verification. She is worried that her previous failure to cast a ballot will be repeated. “There is only information if you have registered. That’s all,” she said.
Malaysia’s Overseas Election Commissioner Herman said his party has begun verifying voters. The verification process can be done over the phone, he said. “The list of names is already in the KPU, and we are checking the data. If it doesn’t exist, then we write it down. If there is, then there is a record. That’s the way it works,” he explained.
Nevertheless, the Overseas Election Commission found several problems during the verification process. One of them was the distance between the voter and the polling station. “There are difficulties in the validation of DPT abroad. Because we don’t know where they work then,” Harman told Jaring.id on Monday, September 4, 2023.
“So that the validation is less than ideal. But we don’t know how to go about trying to solve that. We don’t have any idea how many Indonesian citizens are here. Because a lot of them are undocumented,” he continued.
In fact, the problems faced by Malaysia’s election commission have happened many times before. In the 2019 election, Herman is well aware of how migrant workers were not able to register with the DPT. Even after verification, voters could not exercise their right to vote because there was a mismatch between the voter’s place of residence and the voter’s place of work. But he promises that he will work as well as he can in order to bring out as many voters as possible.
Herman said that the Overseas Election Commission was currently preparing a number of locations to hold the voting and campaigning activities. He said some volunteers for presidential candidates Anies Baswedan, Ganjar Pranowo, and Prabowo Subianto have prepared campaign programs to attract migrant workers’ votes in Malaysia. “There are already a lot of volunteers out there,” he said.
In the upcoming 2024 election, the General Election Commission (KPU) will conduct elections in 128 countries. There are 1,750,474 voters registered in the permanent voters’ list. Meanwhile, there are 203,056,748 other voters registered in the country. The electorate abroad will vote in 3,059 polling stations (TPS). They will vote for president and vice president as well as legislative elections for the DKI Jakarta II constituency.
The number of DPTs for overseas voters is considered not to reflect the actual conditions overseas. Furthermore, this number has shrunk compared to the previous election. In 2014, there were 2,003,280 voters, while the number of overseas DPT voters in the 2019 election was 1,992,145. For this reason, a number of civil society organizations and political parties have been highlighting the DPT abroad. One of these political parties is the Labor Party.
This new party participating in the election believes that the KPU has not registered overseas voters in the best way. Bobi Anwar Ma’arif, from the Overseas Voters Department of the Labor Party, compared the data with data from Bank Indonesia (BI), which reported that the number of Indonesian migrant workers in 2022 was 3.44 million. Meanwhile, there were 4.6 million migrant workers working abroad through official channels in May 2023, according to data from the Indonesian Migrant Workers Protection Agency (BP2MI).
In this way, there is a difference of about 2.6 million migrant workers who are potentially at risk of losing their right to vote. This estimate could be even higher, as the overseas voters are not only migrant workers, but also other groups such as students and diplomats. “There are a lot of problems, so no one knows what is the correct data,” he told Jaring.id on Wednesday, September 6, 2023.
For this reason, the Labor Party has asked the KPU to update the data on voters living abroad. This can be done in cooperation with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and by involving the BP2MI, which has data on migrant workers living abroad. Anwar also urged the KPU to ensure that all those voting overseas get registered. Both those who are in compliance with the procedures and those who are not. “The data collection system that is owned by the government is only for the procedural ones, while the non-procedural ones have not been recorded,” he said.
He suggested that overseas voters’ committees pick up the ball by providing transportation to plantation and oil areas. Without this, he said, it will be difficult for migrant workers to exercise their right to vote. “There have to be other alternatives that use transportation or that gather them in one place so that they can cast their votes,” he said.
In his opinion, the less-than-ideal overseas voting system could be detrimental to the Labor Party. He predicts that if the KPU does not solve the problems overseas, the party with the dominant orange color will lose millions of votes. “For the candidates of the Labor Party in the legislative elections, the number of votes will certainly be reduced. This is because we are going into constituencies where we are in competition with businessmen, ministers, lawyers, and public figures. They have to be defeated.” Anwar said.
In order to reduce fraud, the Workers’ Party has set up a special monitoring team for the overseas elections. This is an important thing to do, considering that the data collection by the KPU is still chaotic and has not been fully verified. “We have our own monitoring team to carry out surveillance to prevent fraud in the election,” Anwar continued.
Separately, the legal aid coordinator of Migrant Care, Nurharsono, also questioned the DPT of the overseas voters. Even though the DPT of overseas voters is not as high as that of voters in the country, the KPU cannot just ignore it. Even a single vote is important for the collection and verification of data. This is useful in preventing fraud and ensuring that the Election Commission works. “I think it is important for the government and the KPU to collect data in a clearer way. It is necessary to update the data because a lot of people are leaving and coming in,” Nurharsono told Jaring.id on September 8, 2023.
Nurharsono explained that migrant workers have the same political rights as those stipulated in Law No. 18/2017 on the Protection of Migrant Workers. “It’s better for the government to be transparent and to collect data,” he said. So everything needs to be coordinated.” He said.
The KPU guarantees access to people in the country and abroad in a written statement on Wednesday, June 21, 2023. The public will be able to register themselves independently through cekdptonline.kpu.go.id. “The KPU will continue to make improvements to the data after the determination of the temporary data of the voters. The analysis process is also conducted on overseas data based on NIK data,” the KPU said in a written statement.
KPU also mentioned that the agency had consolidated the data in a measurable and up-to-date manner through the cooperation of various stakeholders, such as the Ministry of Home Affairs, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Law and Human Rights, and the TNI / Polri. “The KPU is aware that there will be a lot of accusations against the KPU before the election because of strange data as an attempt to delegitimize the organizers,” the KPU said.
Jaring.id has tried to contact the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in charge of foreign electoral affairs, Diaz Pratomo, but no response was received. As well as the KPU RI Commissioners, Muhammad Afifudin, Betty Epsilon Idrus, and Yulianto Sudrajat. None of them had a response by the time of publication of this article.
One of Jaring.id’s sources at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that in the last overseas election, DPT no longer involved his party in collecting data. This situation is different from the 2019 election, where the KPU has the involvement of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, so the data collection process is in line with the KPU, BP2MI, Kemenlu, and BPS data.
Meanwhile, the potential vulnerability of elections abroad in 2024 has been revealed by the Election Supervisory Agency (Bawaslu). The agency released its 2024 Election Vulnerability Index on Aug. 31. There are 20 countries with the highest level of vulnerability. They include Malaysia, the United States, Hong Kong, Japan, Australia, Qatar, Taiwan, the Netherlands, South Korea, Egypt, Singapore, Oman, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Brunei Darussalam, Germany, and the Philippines.
“For example, in Kuala Lumpur. We had a very interesting experience there. At that time, there were indications that there was fraud. We remember that at that time Bawaslu asked for a stop [of the voting] because there were indications that there was a violation of the rules. There are also foreigners who join the queue during the voting process. This is what happened in Sydney,” said Bawaslu Commissioner Rahmat Bagja during the presentation of the vulnerability map for the simultaneous elections in 2024 at the Grand Mercure Hotel, Harmony, Central Jakarta, on Thursday, August 31, 2023.
Bawaslu mengingatkan KPU harus bersiap menghadapi masuknya pemilih dari luar negeri yang tidak masuk dalam daftar DPT, misalnya mahasiswa yang baru masuk kuliah pada Agustus-September dan Desember-Januari.
In contrast to Timor-Leste, the situation in Indonesia is different. The Comissão Nacional de Eleições (CNE), also known as the KPU of Timor-Leste, did not encounter any significant obstacles in the collection of data on voters living abroad during the last elections. According to CNE Commissioner Odette Maria Belo, the data collected by Timor Leste was done using a centralized mechanism, namely through the Embassy of Timor Leste.
Timorese citizens only need to show their identity card or passport to exercise their right to vote. After that, voters will simply have to fill out the voter registration forms that are at the committee’s disposal. “There is the registration of the voters and the verification of the voter cards to be used in the general elections. So it is just a matter of completion of the administration.
From this data collection, hundreds of thousands of voters have been identified as living in countries as diverse as the United Kingdom, Portugal, Iceland, South Korea, and the Americas. “There is a lot of enthusiasm to register,” Odette said.
However, there are a number of obstacles that Timor-Leste’s overseas voters face, including documents that explain their employment, college, and citizenship status. “People are excited to register to vote, especially for the beginner voters. They want to get a voter card, but sometimes they don’t have one. They cannot become voters because their documents are incomplete,” he said.
In his view, the conduct of elections abroad must take into account voters’ work schedules. During the first round of the presidential election in Timor-Leste in 2023, the enthusiasm of the public to come to the polling station was quite high, because the election was held on a public holiday. In contrast, the turnout for the second round of voting, which took place on Monday, was lower. “People work there, the embassy is far from where [the electorate] lives,” he said.
The KPU of Timor-Leste, however, did not remain silent. At that time, they immediately coordinated with the embassies in each of the countries to take the initiative of picking up potential voters from a number of voter bases. “Embassies need to be mobile in order to register and conduct elections,” Odette continued.
Another obstacle to be considered is the disruption of Internet connections between countries. According to him, the delivery of election results abroad was delayed because of Internet disconnections in Timor-Leste. “The repair of the system is coming from Timor-Leste. That is one of the obstacles we have. So the people have to wait,” he said.
Meanwhile, the CNE of Timor-Leste brought in international observers to prevent fraud. By doing this, he claims that the Timor Leste Elections went without cheating. “There has been no fraud. There were no reports of fraud, there were no cases of dispute,” he said.
In the presidential election of Timor-Leste, Jose Ramos-Horta has won the victory. He received 62 percent of the vote in the election that took place on April 19, 2023. He outperformed the incumbent, Francisco “Lu Olo” Guterres, who received 37 percent. In the meantime, Xanana’s party, the CNRT, has won the parliamentary election. The party received 288,289 votes or 41.6 percent with 31 seats, followed by the Fretilin Party with 178,338 votes or 25.75 percent with 19 seats, third were the Democratic Party (64,517 with 6 seats), Kuntho (52,031 with 5 seats) and the PLP (40,720 with 4 seats). According to the vote count, Xanana is the new Prime Minister of Timor-Leste.