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    Apr 09, 2014

    Voter apathy to mar polls in Indonesia

    WHEN Jovan Said first started university in 1998, he risked his life to join thousands of fellow students in South Sumatra to topple dictator Suharto.

    He said he will stay home today, when 175 million Indonesian voters have a chance to elect local and central government assemblies across this sprawling archipelago.

    Corruption scandals and disappointment in the outgoing administration of incumbent president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono threaten to keep away millions like 32-year-old Mr Said.

    Even the emergence of a political rock star - such as reformist Jakarta Governor Joko Widodo, who is a likely candidate for president in July and is expected to lead his Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) to a thumping victory this week - will do little to rekindle his interest.

    "In the end, they always compromise on their ideals," said Mr Said.

    A wave of political apathy is sweeping the country just as a new class of lawmakers appears poised to take over.

    The popularity of Mr Joko, better known here as "Jokowi", will likely help his PDI-P clinch as many as 45 per cent of seats in the House of Representatives, making it the ruling party for the first time in a decade, according to recent polls from Roy Morgan and the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

    But some specialists reckon that upwards of half of the electorate will stay home on election day, extending sharp declines in the voter participation rate since 2004, when the rate was 84 per cent. Audacious corruption scandals that reach up to the highest levels of the government have sapped public trust.

    "People don't want to vote, they're tired," said Corruption Eradication Commission deputy chairman Adnan Praja.

    "We're trying to tell them that it's up to them to choose better politicians."