TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Members of Taiwan’s Indonesian community turned out in support of Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) presidential candidate Ganjar Pranowo on Sunday (Feb. 4), as the world’s third largest democracy prepares to go to the polls.
Unlike Taiwanese people, Indonesians living abroad do not need to return home to vote in elections. More than 50 polling stations organized by Indonesia’s electoral commission and local volunteers will be set up throughout Taiwan on election day.
On Sunday afternoon, a crowd of about 200 turned out at Taipei’s 228 Memorial Park and were greeted by Elfonda Mekel, PDI-P legislative candidate for parts of Jakarta and overseas constituencies. The former rock star and one-time member of the band Dewa 19 traveled to Taiwan for the first time to campaign for the PDI-P’s presidential candidate.
Support for the candidate is significantly behind the leading presidential hopeful according to recent polling, though Elfonda was undeterred, and told Taiwan News it was important to come to Taiwan to meet supporters and party members. “I heard the PDI-P is pretty dominant in Taiwan, and hopefully it can be dominant in Taiwan this year as well,” he said.
PDI-P supporters gather in Taipei's 228 Memorial Park on Sunday. (PDI-P, Rahmat Dwi photo)
Elfonda received a welcome from the Indonesian community befitting of his rock star past, as supporters snapped selfies and chatted at an Indonesian restaurant behind Taipei Main Station after the rally. He said the two-night trip to Taiwan follows stops visiting Indonesian voters in Malaysia and Hong Kong.
The votes of Indonesian people living in Taiwan are important to the PDI-P, Elfonda said, as he described issues Indonesians in Taiwan care about. “Most of them are migrant workers here, so they care about their safety, taxes, remittances, and how they can bring their things and gifts to their families without being taxed too much,” he said.
Working on these issues is in line with the PDI-P’s image of being a “party of the people,” Elfonda said. “Not just of the people, but most importantly, it’s a party for the people, for the ordinary people,” he said.
Anies Baswedan, Prabowo Subianto, and Ganjar Pranowo, along with their running mates, Muhaimin Iskandar, Gibran Rakabuming Raka, and Mahfud MD, respectively, hold hands before a group photo after a televised debate on Sunday. (Reuters photo)
He said that generally, Indonesians are concerned about corruption going into this election. “Especially for the youngsters, they would say corruption is the biggest problem in Indonesia,” Elfonda said.
“So, they demand the party and whoever is elected president, and the people in the parliamentary seats, to be people who care about this,” he said. “Basically, we have the rules in place, but we need to work on the enforcement.”
Tony Thamsir (譚雲福) is the head organizer for the PDI-P in Taiwan, and he told Taiwan News there will be 53 locations throughout Taiwan where Indonesians can vote on election day. The voting stations are organized by local groups in collaboration with Indonesia’s electoral commission and will be located in Indonesian restaurants and stores, and other places frequented by the Indonesian community.
Elfonda Mekel greets supporters at Taipei Main Station on Sunday. (PDI-P, Rahmat Dwi photo)
Tony said it is important to provide multiple locations for Indonesians to vote in Taiwan, as the population is large, and many do not have the means to travel long distances to vote. According to the Ministry of Labor, as of June 2023, there were just under 260,000 Indonesian migrant workers in Taiwan, and Tony noted the many students and those married to Taiwanese who will also vote.
Turning to Indonesia’s presidential tickets, Tony described the situation as “awkward.” Tony said he believes it will be difficult for some voters to choose between a show of continued support for Jokowi (as Joko Widodo is commonly known) or the PDI-P’s chosen successor, presidential candidate Ganjar.
Tony referred to a blow dealt to the campaign in October, when the incumbent president and PDI-P member Jokowi’s son signed on as running mate to Prabowo Subianto, who is standing for the opposition Gerindra Party.
Tony Thamsir (center) speaks to PDI-P supporters in front of an image of Ganjar Pranowo in Taipei on Sunday. (Taiwan News, Jono Thomson photo)
Prabowo served as the head of Indonesian special forces before the country transitioned to democracy, and the head of the defense ministry after it. He is accused of ordering the torture and kidnapping of at least nine democracy activists in 1998, which he denies.
Legislative candidate Elfonda said some young people do not remember the turmoil of Indonesia’s democratic transition, leading to increased support for Prabowo. The 72-year-old candidate was described by The Economist as having reinvented his image, appearing to some young people as a “cute grandpa” figure through his prolific TikTok output and youth outreach.
In January, Prabowo showed 47% support compared to Ganjar’s 22%, which is roughly equal to the support for the third candidate, former Jakarta governor Anies Baswedan. If no candidate receives more than 50% of the vote on election day, a runoff will be held on June 26.
A supporter in Taipei watches Ganjar Pranowo speak in the last of Indonesia's televised presidential debates on Sunday. (Taiwan News, Jono Thomson photo)