In remote parts of Indonesia, voters feel let down

Mar 14, 2019

THE MAIN market in Ambon, the capital of the Indonesian province of Maluku, is a riotous affair. Stalls sprawl from the pavement into the road. Shouting over the screech and rattle of traffic, vendors and customers haggle over bags of spices and fresh-cut bunches of bananas. The smell of durians and barbecued fish hangs in the air. Amid the hubbub, a group of vendors finds time to talk politics. They hold a dim view of their leaders in Jakarta, Indonesia’s distant capital, insisting that their lives are never improved by new policies. “The central government does not really think about us,” says one. “It just does whatever people in the west think.”

By “the west”, she means the islands of Java and Sumatra, which together are home to more than three-quarters of Indonesians (see map). The rest are spread across a further 13,000 or so islands. On April 17th 190m voters across the archipelago will head to the polls to pick a president as well as national and regional legislatures. Because national politicians naturally lavish attention on the most populous places, people in the far-flung corners of the country often feel neglected.

Maluku is a good example. It is sparsely populated, with less than 2m of the country’s 265m people. It is also remote—some 2,400km from Jakarta. Small wonder national politicians rarely visit....

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