Indonesians vote at the Indonesian Consulate. Image Credit: Antonin Kélian Kallouche/Gulf News

Dubai/Abu Dhabi: Thousands of Indonesians in the UAE cast their votes on Friday ahead of their country’s presidential elections on April 17.

The voters had to decide between incumbent president Joko Widodo and former military general Prabowo Subianto, as well as picking legislative members from 16 national parties in the running for 20,000 seats in national board and local councils.

Indonesia’s ambassador to the UAE Husin Bagis told Gulf News in Abu Dhabi: “This election is the first time in our history where both the president and parliament will be elected on the same day, so you can just imagine the amount of work and preparations that we have put in at our embassy and consulate.

“Along with the two main candidates for president, we have at least 500 candidates for legislative positions,” he added.

“As the official embassy in the UAE we are giving our full support to the election process, we established an election commission that is both neutral and transparent. Our main goal is to help all registered Indonesian voters in the UAE to be able to cast their votes.

“Here in the UAE we have over 9,000 registered voters, we decided to hold the voting day on a Friday because it’s a holiday and so it will be easier for Indonesian residents to go out and vote without any hassle.”

Ridwan Hassan, the Indonesian Consul General in Dubai told Gulf News: “There are approximately 105,000 Indonesian nationals in the UAE. Of these about 4,800 are registered with us [in Dubai] and many registered with the Abu Dhabi embassy. We expect that by the end of voting today at 6pm at least 2,000 registered voters would have cast their ballot.”

Yunita Purwaningyas, the Vice Consul General in charge of Information and social affairs overseeing the ballot process in Dubai, said: “People who are not registered are coming here and doing an on-site registration, we have made allowance for extra ballot forms. We expect that at least 60 per cent of the registered voters will exercise their voting rights and we also think several new registrations will be made.”

Consul General Hassan added that on April 17, coinciding with the counting time in Indonesia, these ballots would be counted under the watchful eyes of specially appointed volunteers on board several committees that have been formed to conduct a stress-free polling process.

Indonesian expatriates queued up at the voting tent with great enthusiasm and energy from 8am on Friday. Those who were registered produced their identification document and once tallied on the list were handed over the ballot form. They cast their secret ballot behind secure partitions, folded the paper and placed it into the sealed glass boxes. That done, their little finger was painted with indelible ink to mark their successful polling.

According to Indonesian election rules, any Indonesian 17 years old or above is eligible to vote. Additionally, anyone who is below 17 but is already married can vote. Around 75 per cent of Indonesians registered to vote in Dubai are women.

The day was more of a meet-and-greet occasion for all expatriates who had arrived in large numbers with families. Once the voting was over, people congregated on the consul laws to share delightful traditional foods such as rice cakes with sweet and sour fish, fermented cassava, meatballs, satay and the like, being sold at stalls set within the consul courtyard. Lita Hassan wife of the consul general, manned some of the foodstalls with help of volunteers and interacted with all voters.

What the voters said:

Ricardo Maspaitella, 44

“As a voter my main priorities are economic prosperity, modernisation and to see the country grow in all fields. That is what I am voting for, and I believe the current president is the one who can deliver on all of those things which is why I am sticking with him. I am happy with the way things have progressed in the last five years, I’ve seen a lot of development in Indonesia during that time and so I think the president needs another five years to continue the good work. It’s really important that we all go out and vote because as citizens we need to partake in helping our country and to have our voices heard.”

Komariah Mihraz, 46

“I didn’t vote in the last elections, but this time around I am very enthusiastic to take part. I am happy and positive with the current government, and as a voter I want to see the best future for my country. When I look at what’s currently happening in Indonesia I see good economic growth which wasn’t there before, and so I have a big hope and expectation for this to carry on for the next five years. I’ve also been very active in the last three months going around the UAE visiting cities like Al Ain and Dubai to encourage other Indonesians to vote as well, I think it’s important that we all use this right and so I was really pleased to see a very high turnout at the embassy.”

Intan Napitu, 32

“I am going to vote for President Widodo again like I did last time. I believe there has been a lot of good development under the current presidency and I am optimistic we can do even more over the next five years. I am proud with the direction our country is heading in, and I hope to see Indonesia improve in all sectors and to also become competitive on the world stage, that is what I am basing my vote on when looking at both candidates.”