Why I care about voting

Like the United States, Indonesia is a democratic republic. Both nations have a government in which the people are able to represent themselves and vote directly for new laws and public policy. I feel very lucky to be born and raised in Indonesia, to have the freedoms and rights I would not have if I were born somewhere else.

To be fair, Indonesia is still fairly new with the whole democratic system. It is the largest Muslim country in the world and we had its first direct presidential election in September 2004, long after the U.S. held theirs. Prior to that, in 2002, the President and Vice President were elected by the country’s upper legislative body, the People’s Consultative Assembly.

I remembered watching historian Howard Zinn’s documentary titled You Can’t Be Neutral on a Moving Train and he argued, “To be passive is to collaborate with whatever it is out there.” Zinn may have used that line in a different context but I think the line relates to the election. I think that Zinn’s statement makes sense to me in the election context because to not participate in a democratic election is to surrender and leave the decision up to the rest of the population.

I understand that some people may not want to vote because they think their vote will not count, or they’re just being apathetic. The fact is, politics affects your daily life, whether you realize it or not. The laws applied by the state, for example, may affect students. If the federal financial aid laws are changed, more students may have the chance to pursue higher education, or how long they’ll able to receive it. Of course financial aid laws could turn the other way making it harder for students to pursue higher education.

Here’s a short story on the Jakarta gubernatorial election to illustrate how voting could probably change Jakarta’s future. Two weeks ago, Jakarta, the city where I grew up, just had its second round of the gubernatorial election. The incumbent governor, Fauzi Bowo, is running against a newcomer, Joko Widodo, who is a mayor of Surakarta, one of the cities in Central Java. The final result of the election showed that Widodo won the title and will be Jakarta’s new governor. Widodo’s victory came as a shock to the incumbent governor because many predictions showed that he would get another term.

Many people voted for Widodo because they were disappointed under Bowo’s rule. The traffic problem has yet to be solved, and floods, unemployment, and other problems are yet to be solved as well, the city is longing for a new figure that could change the city’s failing future. Many say that Widodo’s success being the mayor of Surakarta, his down-to-earth figure, and exemplary political mannerisms during the campaign are the keys to his win.

The whole point of me telling this story is if people decide they want their voice to be heard, then learn what their candidates are standing for. If things do not go the way you wanted, complain all you want, at least you’ve already taken a step in making a change that you initially wanted. If things do not go the way you wanted and you did not participate in the voting process, don’t complain then, it was your fault to not participate in the first place.