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Society pessimistic elections which change their lives

Kompas - August 8, 2003

Jakarta – Although the hopes and interests of society with regard to the 2004 general elections are very positive and indicate an attitude of enthusiasm, society feels pessimistic about whether the elections will be able to change their lives. This pessimistic attitude has emerged because society understands that the benefits of organising the elections cannot be enjoyed by ordinary people, but only by the politicians [who are presently in government].

This pessimistic attitude was apparent in a survey carried out by the Centre for the Study of Development and Democracy/Institute for Social and Economic Research, Education and Information (Cesda/LP3ES) of 3000 respondents in 13 provinces between March 1-12. The results of this survey were presented on Thursday (7/8) by LP3ES researcher Enceng Shobirin, who also holds the position of vice-director of LP3ES. Discussing the results of this research was Syamsuddin Harris from the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI) Political Research Centre.

This pessimistic attitude could be seen from answers to the question: “Do you, or do you not, feel certain that the 2004 elections will change the destiny of society for the better”. As many as 46 per cent declared that they were not certain, while those who declared they were certain was only 27 per cent. The remainder answered that thy did not know.

Enceng said that the results of the survey showed that Indonesian society is quite mature in its views of the political process. This is visible although society is disappointed with [existing] political figures, but this disappointment has not diminished their views about democracy, politics and elections.

People’s views about elections for example, appears to be positive. As part of a political system and one of the important elements in the basic principles of democracy, elections are viewed as an important event (93 per cent). Only three percent of people considered elections unimportant.

The importance of elections for the majority of people in society is based on three things. There are those that consider elections as social mechanism to participate in determining state policy (39 per cent), elections represent a mechanism which is able to guarantee a peaceful transition of government (29 per cent) and that the elections are a mechanism for society to channel their interests (19 per cent).

On the question of people’s preference towards politics for example, it can be seen that 56 per cent of people view politics as “something good”. Only 18 per cent were of the view that politics is “something bad”.

As with [their views on] politics, people responded positively to the process of democracy. Democracy is viewed as a system which can guarantee freedom of speech in society (55 per cent) and represents a mechanism where the government can be determined by the people (15 per cent).

According to Syamsuddin Harris, in his discussion of the research, the results of the LP3ES survey contradict the general view which says that society is skeptical about politics and democracy. The positive response to politics, democracy and the elections indicate that society has an optimistic view of the future and does not want to return to the old system, the system of authoritarianism which was applied by the New Order regime [of former President Suharto]. (vin)

[Translated by James Balowski.]

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