Before the official campaign rhythm for Indonesia’s elections, Once Mekel, a music icon turned politician, hit a vibrant note in Kuala Lumpur. Over 1,000 cheering fans welcomed Mekel, a candidate for the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), reflecting the star-studded allure of political rallies abroad. Mekel’s venture into politics is more than a performance; it’s a chord struck to resonate with the 832,420 registered Indonesian voters working in Malaysia. As the February elections draw near, politicians like Mekel are tuning into the challenges faced by overseas Indonesian workers, promising more than just political tunes.
Celebrities on the Campaign Stage
The pre-campaign scene in Malaysia was a cultural crescendo, with Once Mekel taking the spotlight in Kuala Lumpur. Mekel’s candidacy under the PDI-P adds a celebrity sparkle to the political spectrum, captivating audiences beyond traditional campaign rhetoric. The visit wasn’t just about garnering votes; it was an artistic intersection of politics and entertainment, reflecting the multifaceted engagement sought by politicians on foreign soil.
Mekel, a former member of the band Dewa 19 and a solo artist, shared his motivation for entering politics during his Malaysian tour. “Whatever law is made, it must side with the small people, protect them and not bring them suffering,” affirmed Mekel, intertwining his musical roots with a political anthem for the vulnerable. The resonance of his words echoed the aspirations of many Indonesian migrant workers facing uncertainties abroad.
Once Mekel isn’t the solo act in this overseas campaign symphony. Syahrial Nasution, a former journalist and Democratic Party candidate, also played his part in Kuala Lumpur. Their collective aim: to compose a political score that strikes a chord with the 1.75 million overseas voters, a significant bloc that could sway electoral outcomes in February.
Syahrial Nasution emphasized the influential role of overseas voters, stating, “Overseas voters have a huge influence (in the elections) because they can determine whether a candidate gets elected or not.” In the intricate melody of Indonesian politics, where each parliamentary seat demands approximately 140,000 votes, the overseas vote carries a decisive melody, harmonizing with the broader political composition.
The Discord in Registered Voters
While the registered overseas voter count is a noteworthy 1.75 million, the actual number of Indonesian workers living abroad is much higher. Chief Security Minister Mahfud MD’s revelation in June hinted at a significant discrepancy, estimating around 9.2 million Indonesians working overseas, half of whom are undocumented. This discrepancy underscores the challenges faced by migrant workers, often working in the shadows.
The economic necessity driving many Indonesians to seek employment abroad overshadows the political melody. For workers like Wajah in Malaysia, the hope is clear: “I hope the economy in Indonesia grows to a point where we don’t need to leave the country anymore to make a living.” The economic undertones add complexity to the political symphony, creating a layered composition that extends beyond the ballot box.
The Ballad of Migrant Workers
The melody of Indonesian migrant workers isn’t just about the political overture but the challenges and abuses they face abroad. Reports of abuse, unpaid wages, and rights violations form a somber refrain in this narrative. The Indonesian embassy in Malaysia receives numerous complaints, with domestic worker abuse constituting a significant portion.
In September, a high-profile case highlighted the harsh realities faced by domestic workers when an employee accused her employer, a senior politician, of severe abuse. Such incidents emphasize the need for political leaders to address the immediate challenges faced by migrant workers and ensure their rights are protected.
As the campaign crescendo builds, candidates like Ganjar Pranowo are making pledges to amplify support for migrant workers. Arshad Rasjid, Ganjar’s campaign chief, outlined plans to optimize embassy roles overseas, foster bilateral cooperation, and ensure workers are sent to countries respecting their rights. The political promises aim to create a harmonious resolution to the challenges faced by Indonesian workers abroad.
The shift towards formal registration, as advocated by campaigners like Once Mekel, is a notable refrain in the evolving political composition. The call to register through credible channels seeks to address issues related to human trafficking and create a harmonious environment where the whereabouts and well-being of migrant workers are accounted for.
The campaign trail in Malaysia serves as a unique serenade, echoing the aspirations, challenges, and dreams of Indonesian migrant workers. Once Mekel’s concert-like reception in Kuala Lumpur symbolizes the far-reaching impact of the political stage, extending beyond borders to those shaping Indonesia’s economic landscape from a distance.
As the official campaign period commences on November 28, politicians will amplify their efforts to strike a chord with overseas voters. Beyond the political rhetoric, the discussion will delve into more robust support mechanisms, aiming to protect the rights and well-being of Indonesian workers abroad. The political melody seeks not only to address immediate challenges but also to contribute to the long-term economic development that reduces dependency on overseas employment.
The overseas campaign trail in Malaysia transcends political posturing; it’s a melody unfolding, reflecting the diversity of voices that make up the Indonesian diaspora. Once Mekel’s journey from music stardom to political candidacy creates a unique resonance, blending celebrity influence with genuine concerns for a brighter future.
The February elections will decide the political cadence of Indonesia, but the engagement with overseas voters is a crucial movement in the broader composition of representation, protection, and empowerment. The harmony of political melodies, celebrity endorsements, and the genuine concerns of the Indonesian diaspora creates a unique composition, resonating with the diverse voices that make up the intricate melody of Indonesian politics.