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Indonesia's elections commission pulls through grueling vote count with humor

Publication Date : 11-05-2014


Tallying the votes of Indonesia's almost 125 million voters in all 33 provinces and 77 electoral districts  for 14 straight days is a grueling job for anyone, especially when the task at hand involves accommodating complaints from disgruntled political parties.

Throughout the 14 days of the national vote count, some of the plenary hearings lasted until past midnight, resulting in many tired faces among the participants of the hearings, especially General Elections Commission (KPU) commissioners who took turns in presiding over the hearings.

But after being bombarded with countless protests from angry party members who were dissatisfied with the tally, KPU commissioners did not appear to lose their cool.

KPU chairman Husni Kamil Manik often injected humor into the proceedings to diffuse any tension brewing in the meeting room.

He sometimes also cracked jokes during heated debates between political parties, the Elections Monitoring Agency (Bawaslu) and regional KPU branches.

For example, during one part of the recapitulation, a political party member argued that the data of a KPU provincial branch differed from his own data. 

As the party member raised his voice, Husni cracked a joke right in the middle of the debate.

“I believe the ones that need to be blamed are the calculator owned by the [party election] witness and the calculator owned by the KPU’s provincial branch. The brands might be different, which is why the count results do not match,” he said.

In another case, a male election witness and a female election witness got into a heated argument, and once again Husni attempted to ease the tension.

“I see that [the two of you] frequently argue with each other so that you can look at each other all the time,” he said. “Don’t say there’s something [between them].”

The male witness then replied by saying that he and the female witness got along just fine outside the hearing, despite them being involved in heated arguments in the meeting room.

“You can continue [the relationship] more intensely after this then,” Husni said.

Besides making jokes, sometimes the KPU chairman was funny even without trying.

During the tally hearing for North Sulawesi on the last day of the national recapitulation, Husni wanted to strike his gavel to officiate the results of the vote count and close the hearing.

As he struck the gavel, its head separated from the handle.

“With this, I declare the recapitulation of North Sulawesi official. Oops,” Husni said as he watched the head of the gavel fly across his table with a stunned look on his face.

He then quickly reassembled his gavel and once again struck it, but not before the whole meeting room burst into laughter.

KPU commissioner Ferry Kurnia Rizkiyansyah said that the panel of commissioners had decided to lead the national vote tally with cool heads to avoid unnecessary drama as they patiently heard complaints from political parties.

“We can counter [the arguments] of course. But we [chose to] reply to them with action [not words],” he told The Jakarta Post on Saturday.

Ferry also said that the secret to the KPU commissioners being able to stay calm throughout the proceedings was their sense of duty.

“We do our jobs wholeheartedly,” he said. “And stress management [is another secret].”

Another KPU commissioner, Hadar Nafis Gumay, meanwhile, said that he was able to get through the 14 consecutive days of the vote tally due to the fact that he would finally be able to enjoy a day off on Saturday.

“I only slept for one hour on Friday. But that’s OK, because tomorrow I will have a day off,” he said with a gleaming smile.


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