February 26, 2024

Optimizing Youth Political Participation

“Carpe diem!”

In 2023, the General Election Commission (Komisi Pemilihan Umum or KPU) finalized the Permanent Voter List (Daftar Pemilih Tetap or DPT) for the 2024 Elections. The total number of voters is 204,807,222. This figure still positions Indonesia as the country with the largest electoral process in a single day of voting.”

Youth become the majority of voters. There are 113,622,550 voters aged 17-40, constituting 56.45% of the total electorate. This places the youth as a relatively influential voting group. In terms of quantity, the more young people exercise their right to vote, the higher the percentage of eligible voters. In terms of quality, the greater the number of informed youth, the more likely they are to contribute to improving the elected government.

“Unfortunately, a significant number of youth do not have an empowering legal framework. There is a common perception that, so far, the youth have only been treated as a vote bank by the older generation in electoral contests. The youth’s participation in voting seems to have little impact on the realization of youth aspirations by the elected government. Higher education is becoming more expensive but lacks quality. Public spaces are shrinking, and freedom of expression is increasingly restricted. However, in every election, young people continue to vote despite the lack of opportunities for candidacy and meaningful representation.”

The Indonesian Constitution only provides a party route for the parliamentary elections. Article 22E Paragraph (3) of the 1945 Constitution, as amended for the fourth time, states that electoral participants for choosing members of the People’s Consultative Assembly (DPR) and Regional Representative Council (DPRD) are political parties. Youth, defined as citizens aged 16 to 30 (Law No. 40/2009 and Government Regulation No. 41/2011), if they wish to influence policies through parliament, must join political parties, which are generally characterized as being older and oligarchic. Political parties, as the main institutions of democracy, tend to be more likely formed by wealthy older citizens, as they are required to have party offices and management in 100% of provinces, 75% of regencies/cities, and 50% of districts.

Furthermore, other participation provisions in the elections also limit the involvement of youth citizens. To be an election organizer, the minimum age requirement is 30 years for regencies/cities, 35 years for provinces, and 40 years for the central level. To become a regional head, the minimum age requirement is 30 years for governors. Meanwhile, to run for president/vice president, the minimum age requirement is 40 years.

The requirements are very burdensome for the youth to participate in Indonesian elections, distorting the aspect of youth political ideas in 2023. Under the guise of “youth politics,” the authority of the Constitutional Court has been distorted and the judicial power abused. Through Decision 90/2023, the Constitutional Court added a new legal norm regarding the minimum age requirement for presidential/vice-presidential candidacy. Individuals under 40 years old can now run as long as they have previously held public office through elections. The meaning of youth politics in the context of the presidential election has been deviated. Youth in the 2024 Presidential Election has turned into a continuation of the older generation’s politics.”

Given the discriminatory and deviating laws regarding youth political participation, it is important to optimize the empowerment of youth participation. Forms of young political participation should not be halted.

In general, there are five forms of participation in elections. First, being a voter [menjadi pemilih]. Second, observing the elections [memantau pemilu). Third, being an election organizer [menjadi penyelenggara pemilu]. Fourth, being a participant in the elections [menjadi peserta pemilu]. Fifth, being an educator/campaigner for the elections [menjadi pendidik/pengkampanye pemilu]. Apart from being a voter, it is important for young people to choose other forms of election participation.

As voters, young people should strive to be informed voters with sufficient knowledge in considering their choices and understanding the methods of using the ballot. In the 2019 elections, approximately 11% (around 17 million) of voters made mistakes in using the House of Representatives (DPR) election ballots. It is suspected that many voters either forgot or were indifferent to the ballots for the DPR, DPD, and DPRD. Hopefully, in the 2024 Elections, youth will not be part of the group that makes mistakes in using the ballots when casting their votes.

As election observers, youth can choose various roles in observation. First, the youth, together with legally recognized organizations, can become accredited observers under the Election Supervisory Body (Badan Pengawas Pemilu or Bawaslu), based on their regional level or the specific issues they focus on. Second, youth can engage in observation initiated independently by civil society organizations, such as kecuranganpemilu.com, jagasuara, and others.

Becoming an election organizer, youth can participate as field election officers. One of the evaluations from the hundreds of casualties among the election officers in the 2019 Elections was that almost all of them were older individuals, not youth. This indicates that youth are needed to participate as election officers for two reasons. First, the internal factor of empowering the youth politically. Second, the external factor, as the management of the 2024 Elections requires the involvement of youth to prevent a repetition of casualties.

Becoming an election participant. We need to appreciate the youth citizens who can run for candidacy in the DPR, DPD and DPRD Elections. Since the minimum age requirement for legislative candidates is 21 years, it is hoped that more youth will optimize their candidacy for legislative positions. Once confirmed as a legislative candidate, it is hoped that this opportunity can be maximized by connecting with youth and their aspirations to influence their political parties, converting these aspirations into laws that empower the younger generation.

Engaging in political education. Youth can participate as political subjects in providing political education to the wider community, especially to the youth. The youth possess a language that resonates with their age group. Electoral knowledge and information are more likely to be accepted and understood by the youth when young individuals take on the role of political educators.

The 2024 Elections may objectively be in a worse state than the previous ones. The General Election Commission as the electoral organizing body and the Constitutional Court as the judicial institution overseeing election results usually play crucial roles in enhancing the quality of Indonesia’s elections. Unfortunately, these two actors are currently in their worst state since the 2004 Elections.

Understanding the dire situation does not mean it should be approached with a hands-off attitude. Young people are expected to optimize their words and political actions to bring about improvement during the 2024 elections. If not now, then when? Failing to harness the power of youth in politics at this moment will make the democratization process over the next five years of the elected government even more challenging and deteriorating. []


Translated by Catherine Natalia