Today, Wednesday the 9th of July was just another day of rafting, shopping and culture ogling  for most tourists in Ubud, but in a parallel world for all Indonesians here it was a momentous day.  

by Rio Helmi. 

Long before expats had started sipping their cappucinos, trusted banjar members on the local committees were busy setting up polling stations. First off were oaths of fair play and transparency, made invoking God whilst holding a stick of incense.


Then offerings were laid at strategic points – next to the ballot boxes, on the reception desk and so forth. No telling where demons might strike. The obligatory posters went up describing each presidential candidate, their vision and mission in case anyone hadn’t been watching television for the last year.

Then padlocked ballot boxes were opened and the contents – ballots, count sheets etc – were emptied out and  counted, and the now empty ballot boxes relocked.


Assigned witnesses and curious photographers checked, a solemn but gentle moment with a light touch of humor in the case of my banjar. I can’t imagine it being otherwise at any of the other “TPS” (polling stations).

As each TPS averaged around 4-500 voters who were free to vote between 7:00 am and 1:00 pm, and that the ballots were a simple quick choice between two sets of candidates, there was hardly any back-up of voters standing in queue.


Untitled-1This by way of contrast to the recent parliamentary elections that had ballots filled with the faces of more than forty candidates, which flummoxed nearly all voters including yours truly.

By around 8:30 social media started heating up, with even savvy, latte sipping, long term expats issuing pleas for Indonesians to vote for “change”, and getting excited that  even Google (Indonesia at least) got into the act by adapting their logo. For us social media addicts this was momentous,  even more important than the two front page articles on the elections that the International New York Times had run this last week.

google icon


This time around there were a significant number of first time voters, young women and men who had perhaps voted a couple of months ago for the first time in their lives during the parliamentary elections, but for sure most of them who were eligible to vote directly for their president for the first time were not going to miss their chance. It’s my personal (read conjectural) belief that these votes had an important impact on the outcome.



The day flew by. Well perhaps not for the police officers, witnesses and other under-employed officials obliged to spend the day at the polls,  mouthing the mantra:  “as long as it’s peaceful” (yang penting aman).  And soon it was time to tally up the votes.

Ok I’m going to  be impartial here, and just report the facts in a professional journalistic manner. Candidate number one got whooped  in Ubud. Below is one of the less  radical results. In another banjar,  the same fellow only got 10%. Ouch.


Then it was time to tally it up properly  on the official tally sheets and render the unused ballots invalid with the all purpose “X”.



Once all that fiddly stuff was done and the witnesses and observers were satisfied, it was time to bring the ballot boxes with all the filled out forms and ballots back  to the “Kelurahan” (township) office to be all tallied up together with the 15 other TPS results from Ubud township proper, which will later on be combined with the other TPSs from the wider district ‘kecamatan’ of Ubud.


Now to quickly run and find a television to watch the wildly fluctuating national quick counts. It wasn’t until well into the afternoon, around 4:00 pm that more than 95% of the vote had been monitored by seven of the most credible surveys who all put Jokowi well ahead, with a breathable margin of around 4-5%.  Even before this was clear, Mrs Megawati had declared Jokowi president (and perhaps by proxy her PDIP party the winner), a bit of a punt considering the numbers were still spinning around like a slot machine, but which was more than matched by Prabowo’s victory speech thanking the Indonesian people long after it was clear that all credible sources had him trailing (the other survey had him one or two points ahead). What drama. But it will be a few days before we are out of the woods, and 13 before it’s really official – if anyone cares anymore by that point.

Metro quick count

So that’s Ubud’s little drop in the bucket for Indonesia’s democracy done. For that matter if Bali were the whole country we’d be done by now because there isn’t really that much point in contesting a 70% plus landslide.  But nationally we will have to be patient, at least that’s what one PAN spokesman for Prabowo’s campaign is telling us – and who knows what he knows.


Good night, and good luck.

all photos except the last two ©Rio Helmi

photo of Jokowi campaign team’s tabulation of Bali results courtesy Rofiqi Hasan, Tempo