Record voter turnout at Indonesian embassy in S'pore

Record voter turnout at Indonesian embassy in S'pore

A record 22,266 Indonesians in Singapore, many in their Sunday best, cast their votes yesterday at their embassy in a presidential election that many pollsters say is too close to call.

They were among two million registered overseas voters who cast their ballots between last Friday and yesterday to pick the seventh president of South-east Asia's biggest economy and the world's most populous Muslim-majority nation.

Some 190 million people will cast their ballots in the vast archipelago of 17,000 islands with three time zones on Wednesday.

The voting process yesterday took less than 10 minutes each for most of the Indonesians at the embassy in Chatsworth Road.

Many stayed on in the embassy grounds after that, chatting with friends and taking selfies to display their fingers that were marked with purple ink as proof that they had voted.

Those interviewed by The Straits Times expressed the hope that whoever wins, the country will be developed rapidly with an eye to helping the poor, while eliminating corruption and keeping religious extremists at bay.

"We are a big country and we have leaders who are corrupt. We hope we will have a better leader, someone who will develop the Indonesian people and the country," said Mr Abraham, 43, a pastor for the Indonesian congregation at a Presbyterian church near Penang Road.

Most of the dozen voters spoken to said they had voted for Jakarta governor Joko Widodo as they saw him as a breath of fresh air for Indonesian politics.

Among them was Ms Fulan, a 38-year-old domestic helper from Blitar in East Java, who voted for the first time.

"I stayed away from voting from the Suharto era until President Yudhoyono," she said, in reference to strongman Suharto, who ruled from 1967 to 1998, and current President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. "Today, I can see a leader who has shown he can work and not just talk."

Mr Joko is seen by many as not corrupt and has shown himself to be effective as mayor of Solo city and governor of the capital.

Indonesian pollsters say the race is too close to call, with former general Prabowo Subianto having narrowed a yawning gap of 39 percentage points with Mr Joko to between three and seven points.

The Indonesian embassy here, which had anticipated an increase in voter turnout, set up 36 polling stations on its premises, with voting conducted from 8am to 6pm.

The mission also provided shuttle buses from Redhill MRT station and Tanjong Katong Complex near Geylang Serai - where many Indonesians like to gather on weekends - to the embassy.

Indonesia's Ambassador to Singapore, Mr Andri Hadi, said 13,000 people cast their ballots at the embassy in the April legislative polls, and he expected a record turnout for the presidential one.

Of the more than 200,000 Indonesians who reside, study or work in Singapore, over 108,340 are registered voters.

"The election is very tight so, whatever the turnout figure is, it will be very important," said Mr Hadi, who mingled with the voters after casting his vote.

Besides those who voted in person, 17,094 in Singapore have said that they will vote by post.

As of last Friday, some 10,000 postal votes had been returned to the embassy.

This article was first published on July 07, 2014.
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