x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Indonesians cast presidential ballots at embassy and consulate

Expatriates, united in seeking stability for their homeland, make their choice at polling sites in Abu Dhabi and Dubai.

An Indonesian resident of the UAE dips his finger in ink to signify that he has placed a vote at the Indonesian embassy in Abu Dhabi.
An Indonesian resident of the UAE dips his finger in ink to signify that he has placed a vote at the Indonesian embassy in Abu Dhabi.

Indonesian expatriates headed to the polling booths at their embassy and consulate yesterday to vote in the country's second direct presidential elections. The embassy's polls opened at 8am, but most voters started to arrive in droves just after 10am. By 6pm, 370 had cast votes at the embassy in Abu Dhabi, while 900 had voted at the consulate in Dubai. Ndari Mukhatarika Hasti, 33, from East Java, was the first person to cast her vote at the embassy, at 9am. She was accompanied by her daughters Aya, four, and Aida, two. "We are all hoping that the outcome of today's elections will bring stability to our country," she said, declining to say who she had voted for. "I hope that whoever is elected will work towards building a secure and more prosperous nation." Registered voters were choosing from three pairs of presidential and vice presidential candidates: the incumbent president, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, and Boediono, a former central bank governor; the vice president, Jusuf Kalla, and Wiranto, a retired army general; and the former president, Megawati Sukarnoputri, and Prabowo Subianto, a former special forces commander. "I prefer to vote here because there are not so many people standing in a queue," said Ms Hasti, who also voted in the last presidential election. "We don't have to wait for a long time to cast our votes." Voting was a straightforward process, with six officials at the polling stations. Voters showed a valid form of ID to the poll officials and were issued with ballot papers after verifying their names on a voters' list. After casting their votes at one of two booths, they were assisted by another poll official in inking their fingers to show they had voted. Wahid Supriyadi, the Indonesian ambassador to the UAE, said: "Voting among migrant workers is not considered an obligation. It is part of their civil responsibility. In the past, we encouraged people to vote for the ruling party. Now it's totally different. People are open and free to vote whomever they want and are not feeling pressured, not even by their ambassador." Other voters who turned up later said they had voted for Mr Yudhoyono. Slamet Basuki, 37, a co-pilot at Etihad Airways, arrived from Johannesburg on Tuesday night and was able to vote at the embassy at 10am yesterday before catching another flight to Paris in the evening. "I'm really glad that we get to vote outside our country," he said. "For the past five years, our country under the incumbent president Yudhoyono has become a good place of investment, and I would like him to continue serving our country for the next five years." Ahmad Imam, 34, who works as a driver for an Emirati family, said his employer had allowed him to take some time off to vote. Mr Imam, of Surabaya in East Java, said he was closely following the news back home and hoped conditions in Indonesia continued to improve. "I hope our economy will be more stable and there will be more job opportunities in Indonesia so people like me do not need to work overseas," he said. "President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono is the best candidate. He has led the country to economic progress and has focused on combating corruption." Bariyah BT Sanasmadjuslim, 36, a housemaid who has worked for a Tanzanian family in Abu Dhabi for eight months, asked her employer to allow her to go to the embassy. "If they did not allow me, I would not have the chance to vote for my candidate," she said. "President Yudhoyono is from my Java, where I come from. Too many people in Indonesia are poor and I hope that if he wins, the poor will have better living conditions." Bestramy Delfarza Santoso, 20, a second-year college student in Qatar who is visiting his parents in Abu Dhabi, said he had voted for Mr Yudhoyono. "It is the first time that people are really looking forward to the outcome of the elections. The incumbent president has accomplished a lot more than his predecessors. There are good reasons to re-elect him. He is committed to eradicating corruption in the country," he said. "Most of us are expecting that we can easily escape from this economic downturn," said Muhammad Geovani, 33, a senior engineer in Abu Dhabi. "We have to choose leaders who can guide us. We realise that we have problems with unemployment but this is not only their job but of the private sector, who should provide jobs to our people." There were 3,299 registered voters in Abu Dhabi, Al Ain and Ruwais; 639 wrote on their registration forms that they wished to vote at the embassy. The rest voted by mail. Records at the consulate in Dubai showed 3,845 registered voters from Dubai and the northern emirates. There are an estimated 75,000 Indonesians in the UAE. rruiz@thenational.ae