Thu, 12 Feb 2004

General election to run on schedule: Commission

Moch. N. Kurniawan and Fabiola Desy Unidjaja, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

The General Elections Commission (KPU) assured the public on Wednesday that despite technical and logistical problems, the upcoming general election would run smoothly and on schedule.

KPU Chairman Nazaruddin Syamsuddin said after a meeting with President Megawati Soekarnoputri at the presidential office here on Wednesday that he and KPU members informed the President that the KPU had solved the major part of technical and logistical problems in its preparations for the legislative and presidential elections.

"We admit there were logistical problems. Now the work of the ballot boxes has resumed and it will be completed on time and (the printing of) ballot papers has been almost wrapped up," he said.

Various groups have expressed concern as just two months ahead of the legislative election, ballot boxes and ballot papers have not yet been distributed to remote electoral districts. KPU has contracted private companies to make a total of around 2.5 million ballot boxes and to print around 150 million ballot papers but the two projects have yet to be completed.

"The distribution of ballot boxes and papers will start in a few days," said Nazaruddin.

He brushed aside doubts about any possible misuse of the computerized counting machine, saying KPU would conduct a manual counting of votes to gain accurate and valid results.

He said further that KPU was also proposing a Rp 900 billion (US$101 million) additional budget to the government due to the increase in the number of eligible voters to more than 147 million. The President pledged to take the proposal into consideration, he added.

The legislative election which is to be preceded by a one- month election campaign will be held on April 5 to elect 550 legislators and 120 regional representatives from 30 provinces while the first round of the first-ever direct presidential election will be held on July 5.

Separately, KPU Deputy Chairman Ramlan Surbakti said that the increase in the number of eligible voters by 1.57 million to 147,219,531 at present from 145.7 million in Jan. 10 had something to do with the emergence of new eligible voters due to age and marriage factors and the completion of voter registration in conflict-ridden Aceh.

"The figure is not final yet because the registration of overseas voters is not complete," he added.

He said the KPU has proposed an additional budget to cover the production cost of additional ballot boxes and papers.

The additional budget constitutes almost 20 percent of Rp 5 trillion the government has allocated to cover the elections.

National Resilience Institute (Lemhannas) urged the KPU to prepare a contingency plan in line with the identification of 28 possible problems that could threaten the elections.

Lemhannas governor Ermaya Suryadinata said technical and logistical problems and the emergence of legislative candidates with bad track records and those who were unable to meet administrative requirements for their candidacy were only three among the 28 possible hindrances.

Meanwhile, Indonesian Military Commander Gen. Endriartono Sutarto said that the military was ready to help the KPU to distribute ballot boxes and other equipment, especially to remote areas across the country.

"Besides, the military has enhanced coordination with the National Police to maintain security during the campaign season and the election days," he said.