Jakarta Globe: ‘I Prayed for My Pick to Win Last Night. I Have a Good Feeling About the Result.’

Inhaling his cigarette, Supardi smiled. “God Willing, the next president will give us a better polling station in five years time,” he said.

Like another 292 residents at the same booth in Central Jakarta’s Kebon Kacang area, Supardi cast a vote but admitted his life was unlikely to change regardless of who won.

But the 73-year-old man has faith. “I prayed for my pick to win last night,” he said, “I have a good feeling about the result.”

Hidden behind the concrete jungle of Central Jakarta’s skyscrapers, the polling stations in Kebon Kacang area of Tanah Abang, are, well, quite down market.

Located in a small alley that a car can’t enter, the station Supardi went to was a makeshift tent of blue tarpaulin spread from wall to wall. A cardboard bulletin board with a list of registered voters hung up on a cement alley wall behind one of the two police officers present.

As early as 8 a.m., people had started to line up to submit their voting credentials to the committee manning the station.

Rachmat, head of the polling booth committee, said that people in the area were still enthusiastic to vote, despite the poor condition of the booths.

“They don’t care,” he said, “as long as they can use their right to vote.”

The enthusiasm was evident in Mena Lestari, a first-time voter who was happy to show off her purple pinky finger. Just turned 18 this year, she said she had been watching the campaign ads on television and wondering what voting would feel like.

“My heart began beating faster as I entered the booth,” she said as she sat perched on a dented red plastic chair, adding that she had carefully marked her choice so she would not render her vote invalid. “I’m very glad I can vote this year.”

Rachmat said that in April’s legislative election, the Democratic Party won the most votes in the area. On Wednesday, he predicted, a lot of people would have been voting for incumbent President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

“Personally, I think his work in combating corruption in Indonesia has been good,” he said.

“And he did that without too much talk.”

Compared to the 2004 election, he said, more people turned up to vote this year, even though the polling station is less flashy. “We had a proper tent back in 2004,” Rachmat said.

In total, he said, 458 people were registered to vote. Of those who showed up only four used their ID cards to vote, as had been allowed for by the 11th-hour law.

“The four work at Kempinski Hotel,” Rachmat said, referring to a new five-star hotel located just behind Kebon Kacang.

Mena said that the election was not just about voting. Working as a maid for a house nearby, she was glad of a chance to gather with her family.

“When I’m working, I don’t get to go out often,” she said, pointing at her mother sitting two chairs away. “It’s great that I can meet my family and friends here today.”

People came and went during the short time available to voters, with the poll station closing at 1 p.m. But many stayed to chat with each other.

Accompanied by cups of instant coffee bought from a nearby kiosk, men, along with their wives and children, hung out nearly all morning under the makeshift tent, not caring about the scorching sun.

“Too bad I can’t stay for the counting, but I have to work at 1 p.m,” Budi said.

And so, it seemed, did half of the crowd. By the time the committee started tallying the votes at 1.40 p.m., only around 15 people remained to hear the count.

Yudhoyono supporters yelled “hooray” when the counter announced, “Number 2.” As the counting continued, more people began to gather around.

“Yes, Mega!” one of them half-shouted when the vote counter showed a ballot with number one ticked. As the last ballot was called out, the community all cheered for Yudhoyono.

The final tally showed Yudhoyono leading with 212 votes, followed by Megawati Sukarnoputri with 44 and Jusuf Kalla on 32. Officials also found six illegitimate votes — ballots which had either more than one tick or none at all.

“I prayed for the Democratic Party to win the legislative election here last April,” Supardi said, still inhaling his kretek cigarette, “and now my prayer has been answered again.”


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