First foreign-born candidate to run in Bali's 2009 legislative elections

Balinese voters will find a nice surprise when they open their ballots in the upcoming 2009 legislative election: a foreign face among the more familiar Indonesian candidates on the rolls. 

The face will be that of Petra Odebrecht, the first foreign-born candidate in the history of the province's legislative elections, and a member of the Renewal Democratic Party (PDP). 

Petra, who calls herself an ex-foreigner, gained Indonesian citizenship in 1992 after marrying an Indonesian, now her ex. She left her home country Germany and has lived in Indonesia ever since. 

"It's a time of big change in Indonesia, and by sitting still nothing changes. That's why I decided to get politically active," Petra said. 

The PDP was established in December 2005 when senior leaders of the nationalist Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) broke with that party, after a group led by Laksamana Sukardi lost a fight to reform PDI-P at its national congress. 

The party, which has a leadership council rather than a single leader, has become the 14th new party to register since the 2004 elections. 

"I joined the PDP because of its collective system; everyone there has an equal say. Also, 42 percent of the members are women. In Bali, even with the official requirement of a 30 percent quota for women, have four women running as legislative candidates and four men," Petra said. 

Petra has already experienced her share of the murky reality of the country's politics. 

She told of the time she went to a factory and the workers asked her how much she would pay them for their votes, rather than ask about her political views and how they would benefit the people. 

"This showed me once more that I need to try to wake people up, especially the young, to engage in politics, because I believe a nation rises and falls with its politics," she says. 

Last year, Rusty Ambo Dalle, one of the PDP's national leaders, asked Petra to run for the party. But Petra sais she was unsure at the time about what kind of reform people wanted and how the change might happen. 

However, three months ago, she gathered all the required documents and put herself in the running as a legislative candidate. 

"The strong, pluralistic direction of our party made me ask Petra to join our party. As an Indonesian citizen with foreign roots, she fits well into our party," Ambo Dalle says. 

"I'm well aware my skin color and my origin are used as marketing gimmicks, but I want to transform this energy into power to contribute to a democracy that everybody, regardless of their financial background, has access to," she says. 

The 41-year-old, with no former political background, is ranked fifth of the eight candidates on PDP's list of those running for seats in Bali's Legislative Council. 

"I know what my chances are in the legislative elections. Even if I'm not elected, I will try to work in the background as an assistant for my party colleagues," she said. 

Campaigning in Bali will run from March 16 to April 5, 2009, when Petra Odebrecht will get the first feedback on how well the Balinese might take to a foreign-born candidate.

Source: Claudia Sardi, , The Jakarta Post, , Seminyak | Sat, 12/27/2008 10:55 AM | The Archipelago