Workers start election boycott campaign

Kompas – November 9, 2008
Placard reads 'Golput is my Choice' (Tempo)
Placard reads 'Golput is my Choice' (Tempo)

Jakarta – Believing that the government has failed to side with them, workers have started campaigning for people not to vote in the 2009 legislative and presidential elections. The reason, they feel that it is pointless giving political support to the government.

“There are no guarantees of job security or improvements in workers’ welfare. Conversely, workers have instead been neglected”, said Khasminah, a member of the Cisadane Workers Committee Research and Advocacy Team on Saturday November 8 in Jakarta.

The workers noted that in the case of several national policies related to labour and investment, the government has paid more attention to investors than workers. Most recently, was the appearance of the Joint Ministerial Decree on Preserving the Momentum of National Economic Growth and Anticipating Global Economic Developments1.

For workers, this decision provides greater latitude for companies to dismiss workers or refuse to increase wages. “There has been no attempt to improve workers’ living standards [which is justified] because of the global crisis, companies can refuse to increase workers’ wages on the grounds of being incapable of doing so”, said Khasminah.

The cooperation of several labour organisations with political parties, said Khasminah, also cannot be relied upon. The political parties are unable to guarantee that they will resolve the major problem facing workers, that is job security and wages.

“It is because of this therefore, that although at the organisational level not all are yet calling for a boycott, at the individual level, many workers are already calling for a boycott of the elections”, said Khasminah.

Not strategic

Contacted separately, Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) legislative candidate said that he can understand the workers’ position. He is of the view however, that in order to strive for change, it is better to be part of the institutions of power.

Although the political institutions that exist at the moment are not entirely perfect, the space for [people’s participation] if far more open now. According to Putri, the 30 percent quota for women legislative candidates should be taken advantage of by labour activist.

Golput2 as a moral force can be accepted because it reflects the socio-political crisis, but it does not have a political force to articulate the reform movement”, he said.

In order to address this, strengthening the political parties will offer far more opportunities to influence policy and the circulation of power. “Although it may be in large numbers, the political articulation by those who golput will in fact be sidelined and power will continue to roll on,” said Putri.

It is because of this therefore, that he is saddened if workers or voters do not use their right to vote. According to Putri, if it was the old regime of former President Suharto, golput would be a choice that makes sense, but not for these times. (JOS)


1. The Joint Ministerial Decree (SKB-4) signed by Labour and Transmigration Minister Erman Suparno, Trade Minister Mari Elka Pangestu, Industry Minister Fahmi Idris and Home Minister Mardiyanto on October 24, limits laborers’ wage from exceeding the rate of economic growth and is expected to discourage local administrations from raising regional minimum wages beyond the capabilities of manufacturing firms.

2. Golput – Golongan Putih or White Movement, meaning not to mark the ballot paper or not to vote.

[Translated by James Balowski.]