Civil Society Coalition says electing not to vote is a right, not a crime

CNN Indonesia -- January 23, 2019
YLBHI press conference on golput -- January 23, 2019 (Merdeka)
YLBHI press conference on golput -- January 23, 2019 (Merdeka)

Jakarta -- Civil society organisations grouped under the Civil Society Coalition have declared that not casting a vote or golput (white movement) in elections is a right and not a crime. Jakarta Legal Aid Foundation (LBH) Director Arif Maulana asserts that not voting or golput is a political choice in a society.

Golput is an expression of the people’s sovereignty. Citizens take a position and express their political [views]. Voting doesn’t mean having to vote for one or two [the numbers 01 and 02 assigned to the two presidential candidate tickets]. The option of not voting is a choice and this is part of the expression of the people’s sovereignty”, said Maulana at the Indonesian Legal Aid Institute (YLBHI) offices in Central Jakarta on Wednesday January 23.

Maulana conveyed this view during a discussion titled Golput is a Right and Not a Crime which was attended by the Institute for Criminal Justice Reform (ICJR), the Commission for Missing Person and Victims of Violence (Kontras), LBH Jakarta, the Community Legal Aid Institute (LBH Masyarakat), the Law and Human Rights Office Lokataru Foundation, the Indonesian Legal Aid and Human Rights Association (PBHI) and YLBHI.

The right to golput, said Maulana, is protected under the constitution and enshrined in Article 23 Paragraph (1) of Law Number 39/1999 on Human Rights which states that all persons are free to vote and have a political belief.

“Every person is guaranteed the right to hold a [political] belief and a political position. Voting does not mean one or two. There are many options”, he said.

Maulana stated that choosing to golput is not prohibited under Law Number 7/2017 on General Elections. The law only proscribes 11 violations such as providing false information on voter data and campaign funds.

The other prohibitions are related to obstructing the election process, causing someone to lose their right to vote and promising something to a voter if they vote for a particular candidate or do not use their right to vote.

Public advocate Alghiffari Aqsa is of the view that Article 510 of the election law is often misinterpreted by people. The article regulates punishments for those who intentionally cause another person to lose their right to vote which is subject to a maxim jail sentence of two years and a maximum fine of 24 million rupiah.

Aqsa explained that basically all Indonesian citizens have the right to vote. The loss of this right, said Aqsa, is different from electing not to vote for any one of the candidates.

“For example if I campaign for golput then other people choose to golput. This is determined by them and a choice made by those people themselves”, said Aqsa.

Likewise, LBH Masyarakat case administration coordinator Muhammad Afif believes that golput is a way for the public to tell those in power, candidates and the country’s leaders that they do not represent their preference.

Golput is part of political participation and educates those in power. So that those in power know that the people want A, B or C. Golput is a warning to those in power about problems in society”, said Afif.

All of the civil society organisations that attended the discussion asserted that the golput that they are talking about is when a person or party decides to golput as conscious political choice and not because they are apathetic or decide to take a holiday on voting day.

The civil society organisations are therefore appealing to the public to go to the polling booths but then not use their right to vote or to golput. They are proposing this in order to prevent people’s voting rights being misused by certain parties. (chri/wis)


Golput -- Golongan Putih or White Group. The term first emerged as a campaign by students in the 1971 elections and derives its name from marking the white section of the ballot paper rather than a party symbol or candidate’s picture thereby making the vote invalid. In recent years the term has broadened to include not just intentionally casting an invalid vote but also vote abstention.

[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the article was “Koalisi LSM: Golput Bagian Ekspresi Kedaulatan Rakyat”.]