50 percent of preparations for president election complete
Moch. N. Kurniawan and Kurniawan Hari, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta
The General Elections Commission (KPU) said on Thursday that it had completed 50 percent of the necessary preparations for Indonesia's first ever direct presidential election in 2004.
KPU deputy chairman Ramlan Surbakti said that among the preparations that had been completed were the holding of a census on eligible voters, the establishment of KPU branches and Election Supervisory Committee offices at the local level, and the production of ballot boxes.
According to Ramlan, the number of eligible voters was recorded at about 142 million people at present, but this figure would be updated after the legislative election on April 5, 2004.
"The updating of eligible voters is necessary to allow people reaching the age of 17 to exercise their right to take part in the presidential election," he said.
The KPU has also set up regional offices in 30 provinces and 416 regencies/municipalities to help organize the presidential election, he said.
The KPU had been preparing ballot boxes and papers this year, but would decide on the printing mechanism next year, that is, whether all the ballot papers would be printed in Jakarta or in the regions.
"Basically, we have accomplished 50 percent of the necessary preparations for the 2004 presidential election," Ramlan told reporters at his office.
Under electoral law, the KPU is required to organize the legislative and presidential elections.
The KPU has announced that the legislative election will be held on April 5, 2004, but it has yet to set the date of the presidential election.
According to the newly endorsed bill on presidential elections, this should be held three months after the legislative election.
The bill also stipulates that the presidential election will be carried out in two rounds if no candidate is able to win a simple majority during the first round.
Ramlan went on to say that the KPU had to undertake various other tasks prior to the 2004 presidential election, including setting accounting standards for the financial statements of presidential candidates and the distribution of candidates' campaign statements during the second round of the presidential election.
The KPU has drafted a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) in collaboration with the Indonesian Accountants Association (IAI) to set the accounting standards for presidential candidates and political parties.
"Once we sign the MOU, any public accountant can be appointed to audit the financial statements of presidential candidates," he said.
Ramlan also admitted that the KPU might have difficulties in distributing the campaign statements of presidential candidates in the second round across the country as the campaign would only last for three days.
Concerning the delineation of electoral districts, Ramlan said the KPU would leave it up to the public to decide to challenge the KPU's policy or accept its decision to leave densely populated regencies and municipalities intact as single districts.
"We'll let the people respond to the policy as we warned them about this matter before the policy was made," he said.
According to Ramlan, the KPU would go ahead with its preparation schedule for the general election even if members of the public requested the Supreme Court to review its policies.
Ramlan also called on the House of Representatives to complete the proposed establishment of 25 new regencies in September to allow the KPU to allocate seats to them.
"We cannot guarantee that the allocation of seats in the regency legislative councils will be completed in 2004 if the 25 regencies are not formed until after September," he said during a meeting with House leaders here on Thursday.