Diaspora Indonesia: Three Reasons Why Citizens Abroad Should Have Their Own Electoral Area

Members of the Special Committee for the new Elections Law Bill invites activists from Diaspora Indonesia to discuss issues regarding the idea to delimit a special electoral area for Indonesian citizen living abroad. A member of Diaspora Indonesia, Mohammad Al Arief, says there are three reasons why the government need to do so.

First, the total population of Indonesian citizen living abroad is large enough to form a new electoral area. According to a report from the Ministry of Home Affairs, there are 4.7 million Indonesian citizens living in 171 areas in foreign countries. This is equal with the total population of Ireland and Costa Rica, and larger than the total population of North Kalimantan which will be delimited as its own electoral area.

“If we were a province, we will be the 16th largest province in Indonesia, larger than East Kalimantan and North Kalimantan. We will also be larger than the electoral area of Jakarta II which contains 3.2 million people,” says Arief in Jakarta (06/02).

Secondly, by merging the electoral area for citizens living abroad with the electoral area of Jakarta II, it is difficult for the constituents to communicate their aspirations to the government. Indonesian citizens living abroad have different aspirations and needs compared to the ones living in Jakarta. For example, constituents living abroad need to be protected by a certain law on migrant workers.

“I have met with our representative once. He doesn’t even remember that he represents people living in other countries. I have to remind him that he represents people living in Lenteng Agung to Los Angeles,” says Arief.

Thirdly, the fact that there is no electoral area for citizens living abroad makes them apathetic with the electoral process itself. The low participation of citizens abroad in national political process is due to the defunct of the representation system that should have connect the constituents and the government. Arief says that actually many Indonesian living abroad want to be involved in the process of improving the economic and social condition in their home country.

“I worry that they will become more and more apathetic in the political process if the government does not immediately form an electoral area for voters abroad,” says Arief.

Arief says that forming an electoral area for voters living abroad is a common practice in many countries. There are currently eleven countries have special electoral area for citizens living abroad, among them are Algeria (8 out of 389 seats), Angola (3 out of 220 seats), France (12 out of 331 seats), and Italy (12 out of 630 seats).

“I want our fellow citizens living in other countries to have a link that connects them with the political process in their home country. They have the right to vote and to be elected, and the right to be represented and representing other fellows. Therefore, with all due respect, I request the government to form an electoral area for citizens living abroad,” says Arief.