There is a lot of talk at the moment in Indonesia in the lead up to the next election of "golput". Golput is the abbreviation of "golongan putih" or the white group. In this context it is a group that will exercise their democratic right not to vote and therefore remain white or unstained by the process.
The idea of not voting, at least for me, undervalues the point of the democratic process. In the Indonesian context it is disrespectful to the many people who fought and died for the right to live free in a functioning democracy. Even if you vote and the people you vote for do not win, at least you have stood up, you have been counted, and you have expressed your will. Not voting for me ensures that the status quo remains and that the system never changes. I see little honour in being able to sit back and say, "it's not my fault because I did not vote for that person as a matter of fact I did not vote at all!"
With 34 political parties running in the 2009 election (at the present time, this may change -- different post for later) there surely must be one person that you could vote for who is most likely to be your voice in parliament. They might not win but, once again, at least you expressed your principles through your vote.
This piece is not a lecture or sermon to the masses, but rather personal musings on why I vote and the reasons that I see voting to be important. It is also a chance for me to express some exasperation at why people do not vote. It has always amused me that the Gettysburg Address talks about "government of the people, by the people, and for the people" yet Americans en masse tend not to turn out to vote. It is bizarre to me that Presidents can be elected to the most powerful position in the US with the support of less than 50% of those who are of voting age. I guess you get what you vote for or more importantly what you don't vote for.
Hence my basic problem with the idea of golput. If you are not going to engage in the democratic process of elections then why complain when you end up with the status quo. I think that if you want to complain then you need to have taken the time to get to a polling station and express your hopes and desires for the future of your country. Golput strikes me as a back seat driver without a license telling the driver how to drive.
Truth be told this post was just going to be the following quote, but as usual I have gotten carried away in my little moment. Nevertheless, this is something that is worth reflecting on:
"Always vote for principle, though you may vote alone, and you may cherish the sweetest reflection that your vote is never lost."
-- John Quincy Adams