Everything you need to know about the ‘astonishing’ logistics of Indonesia’s presidential election process

Over land, across seas, in the air, and even pulled by a cow – these are just some of the ways ballot papers and boxes will reach polling stations in Indonesia’s stunning one-day election.

Nearly 205 million people were registered to vote on Wednesday, as the world’s third-largest democracy decided to choose a new president.

These voters will be served by more than 800,000 polling stations, spread across this archipelago, which includes about 17,000 islands.

It’s a logistical challenge, made more difficult by unexpected events leading up to polling day.

“Some of the difficult aspects of managing election logistics include time constraints, extreme weather, geographical conditions and even security disturbances,” said Yulianto Sudrajat, head of the Planning and Logistics Department at the Indonesian General Election Commission.

Election officials in Central Java have already postponed voting in 10 villages due to flooding, with further warnings of possible unrest in the west of the island on election day.

Three men sitting at a press conference table.
Indonesian President Joko Widodo, center, speaks during a media conference at the palace in Jakarta, Indonesia, on August 26, 2019. Widodo announced the move of the country’s capital from overcrowded, flooded and polluted Jakarta to East Kalimantan province. (Ahmed Ibrahim/Associated Press)

An open presidential race

Voters decide on an alternative to Outgoing President Joko WidodoWith Defense Minister Prabowo Subianto the current front-runner.

Subianto is the head of the populist Girindra Party. He has pledged to continue many of the outgoing president’s key policies and is running alongside Widodo’s son, Gebran.

The candidate for the ruling Indonesian Democratic Struggle Party is former Central Java governor Jangar Pranoo. He campaigned as a man of the people, but Widodo decided not to support him.

The third candidate is Anis Baswedan, who is running as an independent. Unlike Subianto and Prawno, Baswedan has pledged to distance himself from key Widodo policies, including the decision to move the country’s capital away from Jakarta.

Composite photo of three men
This composite photo shows Indonesian presidential candidates, from left, Anies Baswedan, Prabowo Subianto, and Ganjar Pranowo. (Associated Press)

Presidents are elected to a five-year term, but can only rule for a maximum of two terms.

Indonesians will also elect a new vice president as well as parliamentary and local representatives.

Security officials are likely to be on high alert on Wednesday, following the unrest that followed the last presidential election in 2019.

The demonstrators took to the streets and She clashed with the police After official results showed that Widodo received a second term as president. Eight people were killed in violence in the Indonesian capital.

A man in a police uniform pushes a motorcycle, with a man sitting on it and a box, up the hill.
A police officer helps an election worker ride his motorcycle up a hill while distributing ballot boxes and other electoral tools to polling stations in remote villages ahead of Wednesday’s election in Maros, Indonesia, on Tuesday. (Masudi S. Firmansyah/The Associated Press)

The logistics are “incredible.”

The election requires the production of a staggering 1.2 billion ballot papers before polling day.

“There are also different types of electoral logistics that are only produced every time there is an election, so there is often a scarcity of raw materials and availability of printing presses capable of such large-scale production,” Sudrajat said.

Polls will be open for six hours on Election Day, with votes cast from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. local time. Indonesia extends approximately 5,100 kilometers from east to west, and the country operates in three different time zones.

“The logistical effort to make this election a success is incredible,” said Ben Bland, director of the Asia-Pacific program at Chatham House in London.

“It is a testament to how important democracy is to the Indonesian people.”

Traditional voting methods

Once voters arrive at the polling station, they are asked to choose their preferred candidate by piercing the ballot paper with a nail.

“This is the way it’s been done for some time, and officials are concerned that if they change the system, it could confuse voters,” Bland said.

“This means that when election officials hold up ballots during an open count, witnesses can clearly see which candidate has been chosen.”

A man carries suffrage while walking along a creek.
People carry ballot boxes to distribute to polling stations ahead of Wednesday’s elections, in the village of Kanex, Indonesia, on Tuesday. (Ranga Vermansyah/The Associated Press)

When the ballot is cast, voters dip their fingers into a bowl of indelible ink. These traditional methods are used to ensure the legitimacy of the voting process.

“The ink aims to stop voter fraud, ensuring that people can only vote once,” said Sharyn Davies, director of the Herb Foundation. “Putting a hole in the ballot is also difficult to counterfeit – you can’t cross it off, for example.” Faith Indonesia Center at Monash University in Melbourne.

Indonesia’s diversity is also reflected in the subtle voting changes taking place in the country’s easternmost province of Papua.

In some remote tribal communities, the “Noken system” is used to cast votes. This is a form of community voting, where the village head represents the community at the polling station.

Some have called for the system to be removed, given concerns about transparency and fairness.

A relatively young democracy

Wednesday’s elections are the fifth time that Indonesia has directly elected a president, following the democratic reforms that took place in 1998 after the fall of former President Suharto.

This relatively young democracy also has a young electoral base.

More than half of registered voters are under 40, and candidates are turning to popular social media sites like TikTok in an attempt to target this younger demographic.

Fatia Adzikra, 34, works at a startup in Jakarta and said she would cast her vote in the Indonesian capital on Wednesday.

Fathia said: “I am very excited to vote. Elections are an opportunity to raise your voice as a citizen, and I believe that one vote is important.”

She added: “Frankly, I am not 100% confident in the integrity of the elections, but currently many citizens have become more aware of politics and are watching these elections closely.”

Two people completely surrounded by boxes.
Workers prepare ballot boxes for distribution to polling stations ahead of elections scheduled for Wednesday in Jakarta, Indonesia, on Tuesday. (Tatan Cioflana/The Associated Press)

Health concerns for election workers

More than five million election officials will be tasked with ensuring the integrity of the vote on polling day, although these workers will also have to monitor their health.

Indonesian media reported that 894 election workers died during the election 2019 votelargely due to the heavy workload and long hours needed to ensure all ballots are counted.

To avoid a repeat of that tragedy, the country’s electoral authority implemented stricter health checks on workers.

“We have tightened the process of selecting dedicated election officials, so that there is no repeat of the killing of election officials while discharging their duties,” Sudrajat said.

Quick vote, long count

Indonesia is behind the United States and India in terms of the size of its democracy. With the three countries holding elections this year, they are contributing to 2024 being the next year The largest election year in history.

But Southeast Asia’s largest country is the only country that has chosen to hold a one-day vote. Early voting is conducted in the United States, while elections in India extend for weeks.

Protesters raise banners
A protester carries a poster with a distorted image of Indonesian President Joko Widodo during a march demanding fair presidential elections in Yogyakarta, Indonesia, on Monday. (Salama Al Riyadi/Associated Press)

“Every democracy conducts its elections in different ways,” Bland said.

“Conducting voting on a single day brings greater clarity to the process and enhances public confidence in the results, while strengthening a sense of national unity.”

It could take up to 35 days for the official results of the Indonesian elections to be announced, with a long and arduous counting process awaiting.

The unofficial “quick count” results are likely to be published on Wednesday, with the data based on samples from private polling organizations that will speak to voters across the country.

For a presidential candidate to win, he or she needs more than 50 percent of the total votes. If no one in this three-way race can reach that number, the whole process will have to be repeated in the presidential runoff in June.

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