Young Indonesians look past old faces ahead of polls

Young Indonesians look past old faces ahead of polls

JAKARTA - With elections looming, dozens of young Indonesians sprawled out on a driveway roar with laughter as a comedian pokes fun at the country's politicians, many of whom hark back to the days of dictatorship.

Indonesians between 17 and 31 will represent 30 per cent of the vote in parliamentary and presidential elections that begin six months from now, and they are demanding fresh faces with new ideas.

"We need a leader who will get things done, but I don't want to see another president with a military background," 30-year-old writer Nelvia Effendi told AFP at the event, a discussion on the role of social media in the elections.

Indonesia has long been ruled by militaristic types - its current president, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, is a former general.

And ageing ex-military commanders accused of bloody human rights violations are among current presidential candidates.

"We are looking for someone different. These politicians with military backgrounds, they offer nothing new. Their programmes are abstract with nothing concrete," Effendi said.

The discussion was held by AyoVote (Let's Vote), an organisation started by young Indonesians concerned that their peers did not have the tools to make an educated vote.

They invite comedians and bands and deploy young celebrities as their ambassadors, and communicate through YouTube, Twitter and Facebook.

While young Indonesians know they want something different, many are "clueless" about the political process, said 28-year-old AyoVote co-founder Pingkan Irwin.

"A lot can't even name their local member of parliament," she said.

While this might also be the case in other countries, it marks a sharp turn from 15 years ago in Indonesia when students spearheaded the downfall of the Suharto dictatorship after more than three decades of iron-fisted rule.

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