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Pemilu 1992

Polling day: 1992

I was keen to check out polling day. Those days I lived in the Brawijaya area of Kebayoran
Baru. So I wondered off early in the morning to see people quietly waiting to vote near the
Pangudi Luhur School.
Early that evening I decided to go to the Lembaga Pemilihan Umum – General Elections
Institute (now the Komisi Pemilihan Umum – General Elections Commission) to see if it was
possible to get some early results. I was a little surprised that the building was quite open and
unsecured (I still do not know why I should have been surprised. All government agencies in
Indonesia were – and remain – very open and accessible to visitors). Also the staff were quite
happy to talk and share information. Some were a little bemused as to why I would bother being
there, but seemed genuinely keen to be helpful. No matter how cynical one may have been about
elections then, it was nice to meet officials who demonstrated a spirited interest in electoral
This was my first engagement with the LPU. Who would ever have guessed that my life in the
future would be so closely linked to that agency! Interestingly I met some officials there would
remain active with the LPU (KPU) even up towards the 2004 elections.
In those days the results were distributed in the form of hourly photocopied versions of faxes
sent to the LPU from where the count was taking place – we were told it was military HQ. The
main visitors were some party people as well as journalists. I think I was probably the first ever
diplomat to bother visiting the place! The results were in the from of lists of provisional results
for each province for the national House of Representatives (DPR). These results were updated
hourly. So every hour we would go back and crowd about the office of the public affairs staff
and wait for the photocopies to be available.
Very early results (less than 5% of the vote counted) seemed to show an outrageous vote for
Golkar. Activists from PDI in particular were quite animated in frustration, even arguing that the
Government was stupid if it thought it could get away with such an obviously “manipulated” and
sham result.
Anyway as the night wore on and more results were posted, a somewhat more believable picture
began to emerge. PPP was not enjoying a bounce from its terrible result in 1987, while PDI was
indeed making some progress and building up from its already improved vote in 1987. Golkar's
vote began to fall from its 1987 high water mark.
Later in the evening I went to PDI HQ and sat about talking to some of the people there,
including (the late) Sophan Sophian. There was a bit of a buzz around the HQ at that point as
they began to sense that their overall vote would “be allowed to” rise.

These notes were put together in June 2008: some 16 years after the events of the 1992 elections. The notes represents my clearest recollections and impressions of the time. Polling day was Tuesday 9 June 1992.


On the streets during the 1992 Elections

The “campaign” period in the final weeks before the 1992 elections were a most interesting
period of time. I made the most of it and decided to get among the massive crowds roaming
about the streets. I hope the following impressions give some idea of what it was like.
The first point to note was that each party was only able to “campaign” on separate days. This
was done to stop the massive crowds of party supporters and hangers-on from running into each
other. There was more than the usual fear of violence should such a meeting ever take place.
My experiences amongst these crowds suggest this fear was not misplaced. While each region
made its own schedule for each party taking turns, the key principle was one party per day.
These massive street processions, hundreds of thousands of people roaming about the major
streets screaming and chanting the party themes and showing the correct party finger signs, were
quite joyous.
I recall on the last Friday of the campaign, 5 June, was the Islamic party, PPP's, turn to
campaign. One of the highlights of the day's campaign was a major get together in the Eastern
car park of the Senayan sports complex. I decided to join the crowd. There were tens of
thousands of party supporters all decked out in the green colour of the party. People were
crowding atop parked buses and trucks screaming the relevant slogans, usually Allah Akbar
(God is Great). As I walked passed one truck load of young blokes one looked down at me and
screamed Allah Akbar! Hiduplah bule! (God is Great! Long live the white skin!) He, me and the
whole truck load all burst out laughing. Other trucks had big pre-call to pray drums which added
to the noise and buzz of the crowd.
The next day, Saturday, was Golkar's last day to campaign. Again the big crowds were out
today all decked in this party's yellow colours. Actually I suspect it was often the same people
out and about on each party's campaign trails! Many said they went out each day just for the
free T-shirts and for something to do. Small traders usually made a good income as the
screaming and chanting crowds get thirsty. They also made a bit more by selling party “stuff”
ribbons, badges, stickers etc.
The final day was for the reds of PDI. This Sunday was billed as being the day Jakarta would
become an ocean of red (lautan merah). It would be fair to say we were not disappointed. I
recall standing about the Brawijaya Roundabout in Kebayoran Baru watching trucks and buses
stuffed to overflowing with people. I also recall seeing a procession of scantily clad transvestites
atop a few trucks dancing and calling for support for the party. Again flashing the appropriate
finger gestures were exchanged among those on the road and those travelling.
From evening of Sunday all went silent. Campaigning was over. By Monday morning the
streets, lamp posts and telephone poles were bare of all campaign stuff and all banners had been removed with extraordinary discipline and accuracy. During the night all the election stuff was
removed by supporters.

These notes were put together in June 2008: some 16 years after the events of the 1992 elections. The notes represents my clearest recollections and impressions of the time.


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