Wed, 09 Mar 2005

Lack of money might ruin Riau Islands election plan

Fadli, The Jakarta Post, Batam

A decision to cut the proposed election budget from Rp 39.6 billion to Rp 25 billion would jeopardize Riau Islands' plans to hold regional elections, an official says.

General election commission official Surya Makmur Nasution said the provincial government's decision to cut the proposed election budget was not yet final but the proposal had caused concern among election workers.

"It has been difficult for us to continue our preparations for the election since we heard that only Rp 25 billion would be approved by the council. That amount would not be enough to finance the poll. Maybe it would be better if the councillors organized the election themselves," Surya said.

Positions contested for the elections include that of provincial governor, two mayors -- of Batam and Tanjung Pinang; and four regents -- in Kepri, Karimun, Natuna and Lingga.

According to the election commission data, about 1.2 million voters living in the province's 144 villages are eligible to take part in the polls.

"The voting areas are spread across the different islands, meaning organizers will face high transportation costs. We hope the council does not act unilaterally to cut our proposed budget. If it thinks the budget is too high, consult with us and we can explain. If necessary, we're ready to be audited after the election," Surya said.

The speaker of for the Riau Islands council, Nur Syafriadi, said the council had not yet made a final decision on the election budget. However, he said the Rp 39.6 billion fund might be cut because the council's total funds were limited. The current election budget would make up about 10 percent of the council's annual budget of Rp 400 billion, he said.

"We have heard there is likely to be about Rp 10 billion provided in assistance from the state budget," Nur said.