Unregistered voters, Wi-fi woes led to long wait for Indonesian workers at polling stations in Hong Kong: election official

Raquel Carvalho
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Unregistered voters, Wi-fi woes led to long wait for Indonesian workers at polling stations in Hong Kong: election official

A report on an incident involving migrants who stormed a polling station on Sunday in Wan Chai, after voting for Indonesian elections had closed, has been sent to Jakarta, Hong Kong-based electoral officials said on Wednesday.

Many other Indonesians living in the city were left disappointed after being unable to cast their votes in the three polling stations set up across the city. Some complained of long queues, unclear instructions as well as bureaucratic obstacles.

There are over 180,000 Indonesian nationals living in Hong Kong – most of them are female domestic workers. About 54,000 had confirmed their intention to vote in advance.

While the presidential and legislative elections were held in Indonesia on Wednesday, overseas workers in the city were given the chance to cast their ballots earlier, on Sunday. But votes only started to be counted at 2pm on Wednesday – and by 8pm the results had not been announced.

In Jakarta, early unofficial results showed incumbent President Joko Widodo beating his rival, former general Prabowo Subianto.

The voting process in Hong Kong did not go as smoothly as some had expected, even though Indonesian election officials had been expecting a greater number of voters than in 2014.

Indonesia says it will not extend voting period for Hong Kong-based citizens

Chris Suganda Supranto, chairman of the Overseas Election Committee, acknowledged at a press conference on Wednesday that the queues were “quite substantial”, but he put the average waiting time at one hour – although some workers said they had to queue for five to six hours. He said that many people had not been registered and that different queues had to be formed.

“We also experienced some problems with the Wi-fi connection. Some people had to wait to be assigned a booth,” he said. Because of that, part of the process had to be done manually.

Supranto said that a written evaluation would be done after the electoral process ended.

Regarding the Sunday incident, involving at least 20 migrants demanding to vote after the doors were closed, Fajar Kurniawan, chief of the Supervisory Election Committee, said that a report had already been sent to the central government in Jakarta.

Problems emerged not only at the polling stations, but also with voters who intended to cast their ballots by mail, with some migrants complaining that they had not received the necessary information.

“Some of their employers check the mail every day and others once a week,” Supranto said, justifying why some did not receive the invitation letter. He also said that some letters had been returned and that the electoral committee tried to contact those migrants.

But some workers claimed they were ignored by officials while attempting to seek information.

Could Hong Kong’s domestic workers sway the Indonesian election?

“Many people are disappointed and dissatisfied with the management of these elections. This year, the voting was indoors and we could vote in more places, but the problem was how they managed the participants,” said Sringatin, chairperson of the Indonesian Migrant Workers Union.

The waiting time was unreasonable for many, she insisted. Sringatin started queuing at around 8.35am and was able to cast her vote at 10.30am in Wan Chai. But, she said the waiting time increased after 11am. “Some people had to wait five to six hours, others had to give up,” she said.

Workers had also complained that being allowed to vote in one single day was too short. “Some don’t have a day off on Sunday or the employers don’t let them go out for long time, so they did not make it.”

The union leader also said that many migrants did not have the necessary documentation to exercise their right to vote.

“Some did not receive the invitation letters, and others did not have their passports, which are often held [illegally] by employment agencies or employers,” Sringatin noted.

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