Why We Can’t Afford to Not Care About Politics

Why We Can’t Afford to Not Care About Politics

By Josua Gantan

 on 6:32 pm February 9, 2014.
Bad leaders are elected by good citizens who don’t vote. Sixteen years after the reformation in 1998, political apathy remains a threat to Indonesia’s democracy. The number of non-voters is on the rise. In 2004, the number of absent voters was at 23.3 percent, during the 2009 presidential election it increased to 39 percent. When probed deeper, disenchantment with the government underlies the political apathy that prevails among the people. Yet, there are strong reasons why Indonesians need to be politically engaged despite all the reasons to think otherwise.

Some say politics is dirty, or that there isn’t much that we can change about this corrupt country. Such expressions of cynicism are not uncommon among Indonesians. Many who are idealistic have lost trust in the government. Understandably, because many who were once trusted and elected were found to be corrupt. It’s in the news all the time, so it is inevitable that some people have grown disenchanted.

However, there are reasons why we cannot abandon the political arena — why we cannot simply quit when things do not go our way.

Unlike a tyranny, democracy is the best means to facilitate change in a country, because everyone has a say. When things do not go according to our wish, we can change it. Precisely because change is within reach — as long as we have a democracy — we should not give in to political apathy.

It is a privilege to be a part of the democratic process. And that is why the moaning needs to stop. We the people have the means to bring about change in this country.

Indonesia is the most democratic country in Southeast Asia according to the Economist Intelligence Unit’s Democracy Index in 2012. Indonesia ranks higher than Thailand, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Cambodia and Vietnam in terms of how democratic it is. This includes how free and fair national elections are, how secure voters are, and how much civil liberties are assured in the country.

Much blood was shed in the period of reformation and it has been an arduous journey for Indonesia to reach the point where it is now at. But all the achievements will be in vain if political apathy continues to hold sway.

Another reason why people do not vote is unfamiliarity with the political process. A lack of information about legislative candidates and political parties has been cited as a hurdle. This is especially relevant when we look at young or first-time voters. Indonesia’s youth voters make up 30 percent of the estimated 170 million registered voters in Indonesia. Some 40 million voters between 17 and 30 years old will be electing the nation’s new lawmakers and president. An estimated 14 million of them will be first-time voters.

It is among young voters that the threat of political apathy is the most pertinent. However, lack of information is not a valid reason for being apolitical. The onus is on the responsible citizens to be well-informed about those whom they wish to elect into office.

In this digital age it is not difficult to obtain information about candidates.

TV, radio, social media, newspapers and web portals such as ayovote.com ensure that the public has access to all the relevant information. These outlets enable us to look at a candidate’s track-record and proposed policies. But one does need critical-thinking skills to wade through the stream of information available in the media.

It is also important to be pragmatic. Unflinching idealism can be counterproductive. It is unhelpful to be apolitical just because you are unsatisfied with the quality of the political candidates out there. Someone will get elected, even if you do not cast your vote. If no one appears to be ideal, then choose the candidate who, in your judgement, will do the least amount of harm to the country. We need to be realistic if we want peace and prosperity for Indonesia. Political candidates are humans with their flaws and shortcomings, too.

But in the end your vote matters, it makes a difference to the nation as a whole. And Indonesian citizens who live overseas should not be reluctant to cast their votes at the embassy.

As responsible citizens of a budding democracy, we need to overcome the reluctance to be politically engaged, even when living abroad. All for the sake of a better Indonesia.

Sukarno once said: “A thousand old men can only dream, a single young man can change the world.”

Let us not forget the spirit of our forefathers. Let us not give up on Indonesia by giving in to apathy.

Josua Gantan is a Jakarta-based writer whose interests include politics, philosophy and history.

About bambooinnovator
Kee Koon Boon (“KB”) is the co-founder and director of HERO Investment Management which provides specialized fund management and investment advisory services to the ARCHEA Asia HERO Innovators Fund (www.heroinnovator.com), the only Asian SMID-cap tech-focused fund in the industry. KB is an internationally featured investor rooted in the principles of value investing for over a decade as a fund manager and analyst in the Asian capital markets who started his career at a boutique hedge fund in Singapore where he was with the firm since 2002 and was also part of the core investment committee in significantly outperforming the index in the 10-year-plus-old flagship Asian fund. He was also the portfolio manager for Asia-Pacific equities at Korea’s largest mutual fund company. Prior to setting up the H.E.R.O. Innovators Fund, KB was the Chief Investment Officer & CEO of a Singapore Registered Fund Management Company (RFMC) where he is responsible for listed Asian equity investments. KB had taught accounting at the Singapore Management University (SMU) as a faculty member and also pioneered the 15-week course on Accounting Fraud in Asia as an official module at SMU. KB remains grateful and honored to be invited by Singapore’s financial regulator Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to present to their top management team about implementing a world’s first fact-based forward-looking fraud detection framework to bring about benefits for the capital markets in Singapore and for the public and investment community. KB also served the community in sharing his insights in writing articles about value investing and corporate governance in the media that include Business Times, Straits Times, Jakarta Post, Manual of Ideas, Investopedia, TedXWallStreet. He had also presented in top investment, banking and finance conferences in America, Italy, Sydney, Cape Town, HK, China. He has trained CEOs, entrepreneurs, CFOs, management executives in business strategy & business model innovation in Singapore, HK and China.

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