Indonesian political parties turn to celebrities to bring in votes


JAKARTA - As the curtain rises on next year’s nationwide polls in Indonesia, political parties are enlisting candidates from the stage and screen to improve their appeal.

Singers, soap opera stars and former models are among those being courted and counted on to help bring in more votes.

The turn to celebrities comes as the number who abstain from voting grows, from 15 per cent in 1999 to some 30 per cent in 2009. Celebrities made up 20 of the 560 MPs voted that year, but it is unclear if having more of them will reverse the trend. That has not stopped parties trying.

Among the few that had an impact are former soap actress Rieke Diah Pitaloka, who pulled in second in the West Java governor seat in an election on Feb 24, but whose capabilities as champion of causes like labour rights has been well-known, and Golkar's Nurul Arrifin, who went from film actress to a senior cadre praised for her activism in Aids awareness and drug abuse.