Fri, 23 May 2003

Creation of new regencies to disrupt poll preparations

Kurniawan Hari and A'an Suryana, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

The General Elections Commission (KPU) demanded on Thursday that the House of Representatives (DPR) stop discussing bills on the establishment of new municipalities and regencies by June as their creation would disrupt the mapping of the constituencies.

KPU deputy chairman Ramlan Surbakti said his office would begin drafting the constituencies in June.

"We hope that by June there will be a fixed number of regencies," Ramlan said at a hearing with House Commission II for legal and home affairs.

There are currently 416 regencies and municipalities across the country. The government and the House are deliberating several bills on the creation of another 25 regencies and municipalities.

Responding to the concern, legislator Manasse Mallo said his team would finish deliberating on the creation of the 25 regencies by June.

Manasse said the establishment of these regencies and municipalities would not disrupt election preparations by the KPU.

"At present, the regional autonomy consultative board is assessing the potential of these regencies. We hope it (the assessment) will be completed soon," Manasse said.

KPU also told the House that it planned to increase its budget by about Rp 909 billion to finance the increase in polling booths from an earlier estimation of 383,050 to 438,042.

The money will also be spent on hiring more staff for each polling booth, Ramlan said.

The House had approved the commission's budget of Rp 2.3 trillion for this year alone.

Indonesia is to hold a legislative election in April 2004, followed by a direct presidential election between June and August.

Meanwhile, another KPU member, Valina Singka Subekti, revealed that some 400,000 monitors had registered with KPU to carry out the monitoring of the election.

Valina said her office was preparing a guidebook and code of ethics for the monitors.

KPU member Chusnul Mar'iyah said voter registration had cost Rp 407 billion, most of which was spent on hiring field officers to carry out the registration. Each officer got Rp 500 for every person they registered.

Except for the troubled provinces of Aceh and Papua, the voter registration process has proceeded smoothly, with almost 98 percent of the country's population of 210 million already registered.

The census and voter registration process in Aceh is still going on despite the conflict between the Indonesian Military (TNI) and the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) rebels in the region.

T. Hamdan, the head of the Aceh Central Statistics Agency (BPS), said on Thursday that only 60 percent of the population in the troubled province had been registered.

He expressed optimism that at least 70 percent of the Acehnese people would be registered by May 31, the date the General Elections Commission (KPU) has set as the deadline for registration in Aceh.

"We will be unable to complete the census and voter registration by that date due to security reasons," said Hamdan.

At least six regencies in Aceh, including Pidie and Bireun, are prone to clashes as they are GAM strongholds, preventing registration field officers from completing registration there.

Hamdan said the May 31 deadline could be extended until October this year if security worsens.

"I am not even sure whether we can complete the registration process by that date if the security situation is still not that conducive," he said.