10 January 2009

Indonesian Elections and Youth

The Indonesian General Elections will soon be upon us. There is always talk of regeneration and providing opportunities for younger, and presumably cleaner, candidates that have not yet been tainted by the old ways of government. This coming cycle might provide a few of those opportunities. Then again, getting on a ticket is one thing, garnering the votes to get yourself elected is another kettle of fish altogether.

I need to state at the outset that I do not know the person who is the subject of this musing personal and I know not much about her, other than what I have read, therefore my commentary here is general within the framework of an actual possibility.

The National Awakening Party, which was once Amien Rais' vehicle for a shot at the presidency, but that never worked out for him, has selected a 21-year-old to head up their ticket in the province of Riau. This might be a bold move or just another case of politics as usual. It is being reported that the candidate, Nathania Regina, has family connections to the party and that her father has been a consistent and sizable financial supporter of the party in Riau.

This is unfortunate as it is destined to detract from any achievements that she may be able to cite in support of her candidacy, as the questions will linger. However, by all accounts she has spent much of her high school and university education overseas and has held leadership roles in student organizations. Whether this is a good grounding for national politics, Indonesia style, remains to be seen. What is for sure is that one can never know until it has been tried.

However, who is to say that 21 is too young to aspire to the national political stage? It is certain that youth will bring a certain degree of energy, altruism, and perhaps naivety that is free from the "business as usual" mindset of many other candidates. Perhaps it is these characteristics that Indonesia so desperately needs when they are combined with a commitment to change and a commitment to see the people of Indonesia achieving what is possible for all and not just for a select few.

The problem with youth is that it is so rarely connected to the powers that be. One 21 year-old, no matter how well-connected and how driven, may not be able to change the culture of politics in Indonesia as it currently stands. But, it is always worth a shot, always! The voters of Riau will make the determination by casting their votes.

I have always believed that if we can send our young men and women off to foreign shores to fight and die for our freedoms, then we can also afford them the same opportunity to fight for us and our freedoms at home in the halls of government and power. It is the epitome of arrogance by an entrenched set of interests to restrict the contribution of youth. It is, and will remain, empty rhetoric to say that the youth are our future but not let them then be a part of creating that future but rather enforce them to inherit problems that may never have existed had the vision of youth been given its due.

To be sure, if Nathania is elected it is going to be a steep learning curve as politics in all parts of the world is a cut throat business. Yet, it is nice to imagine a young woman sitting in the halls of power with the courage of her convictions to speak her mind and advocate for a better future. I just hope that she does not lose the innocence of her idealism in the process.

Viva Democracy!


tikno said...

I also imagine how a young woman sitting in the halls of power and how her ability to maintains a lot of big political interest. Just wait and see.

An interesting post !

Rob Baiton said...



I guess we will see, one day!

Anonymous said...

The Indonesian embassy just sent me an invitation to the meeting about the general elections. I dunno if I'll attend it although I have no clue about the upcoming presidential candidates :(

Rob Baiton said...


Are you going to vote? If you are then perhaps having some idea could be a good thing ;)

Does the Embassy put on a good spread at these meetings or not? If they provide plenty of Indonesian food and snacks then it is probably worth it just for that.

I am thinking of writing a few pieces on the election, but it is just a thought. I will probably get caught up doing daddy stuff and not get around to writing it.