Indonesia’s Incredible Elections
Why Indonesian elections are unlike any other in the world
Ben Bland
Stephen Hutchings
million voters
go to the polls this april
The world’s
biggest direct
presidential election
There is no compulsory voting but it’s a
national holiday to encourage high
turnout, in what Indonesians sometimes
call a “festival of democracy”
1 circle = 1 million votes
Voters will choose between incumbent
Joko Widodo
and long-time rival
Prabowo Subianto
They will also vote for
the 575 members of
Indonesia’s House of
choosing from among
16 national parties
Votes determine who can run for president in
Presidential candidates must
be backed by parties that
control 25% of the votes
or 20% of the seats
It’s one of the world’s most complicated elections
India, with five times as many people,
votes in rolling elections over two months
This election is over in a single day
More than
More than
With presidential, parliamentary and local legislative
elections all taking place on April 17, there will be more than
20,000 seats contested by more than 245,000 candidates.
That’s greater than the population of Geneva.
This year, there will be around
millennial voters
Around 40% of all
voters are between
17 and 35 years old
Social media platforms such
as Facebook, Twitter & WhatsApp
will be key to reaching millions
of first-time voters
Photo: Seika / Flickr
All members of the military and the police
are banned from voting to ensure their
neutrality, given Indonesia’s history
of military-led authoritarian rule
There will be around
polling stations
And around
election workers
That’s more than the whole population of Denmark or Singapore
1 in 3
Voters bribed
One third of Indonesian voters were bribed
by candidates in previous elections,
according to one expert study.
But analysts disagree over how much
influence these handouts have.
Women make up 40% of candidates, but are often placed low down on party lists
By law, political parties must ensure that 30%
of their parliamentary candidates are women
In the last election, only 18% of
successful candidates were women
This year 40% of the candidates are women
and activists hope for a better result

While Indonesia upholds the principle of secret ballots and one person, one vote, some parts of Papua are still allowed to choose candidates using the ‘noken’ communal voting system.

Villagers are meant to put their choice for candidate into a traditional noken bag held by the village head. But in practice, the village head often decides where all the votes will go.

Women weave traditional Noken bags
Photo: Wikimedia Commons
The election mascot holds a nail to punch the ballot paper and a finger dipped in indelible ink after voting

The Indonesian word for voting literally means ‘to punch’. Rather than using a pen or pencil, voters punch a hole in the ballot paper with a nail.

This is seen as being harder to manipulate. Votes are counted in public at each polling station soon after polls close. Officers hold each ballot paper up so observers can see light shining through the hole.

With thanks to Evan Laksmana and Isach Karmiadji