Sat, 10 Jul 2004

Kwik denies 'foreign interference' comment

The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

State Minister of National Development Planning Kwik Kian Gie asserted on Friday that he had never said that there was foreign interference in the country's first direct presidential election as reported by several media.

Kwik, who is also a senior member of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), denied questioning the credibility of the quick count in Monday's election, which was conducted by several local and foreign pollsters.

Kwik said during his conversations with reporters on Thursday, that he only expressed disappointment that there was an impression that Indonesia could not achieve anything without a foreign presence.

"I never said that there was foreign intervention. There was also no legal violation. On the ethical side, was it proper for foreigners to lecture us on how the election should be run?" the minister quipped.

Antara quoted him as questioning the role of poll watchers former U.S. president Jimmy Carter and William Liddle, an Indonesian expert from the Ohio State University, who gave the impression that they had a better understanding about the election than local experts.

He also questioned how the National Democratic Institute was able to make a very accurate prediction through its quick count.

"Those who understand the presidential election, and who can accurately predict the result is not the KPU (General Elections Commission) or the Indonesian observers. Those who understand all this are William Liddle and Jimmy Carter," Kwik told journalists after attending a Cabinet meeting, according to the official news agency.

Meanwhile a coalition of pollster groups rejected the accusation that their quick count was part of a foreign ploy in favor of presidential candidate Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

The National Democratic Institute (NDI), Indonesian Survey Institute (LSI), Institute of Research, Education and Information of Social and Economic Affairs (LP3ES) and the Freedom Institute, said the quick count was a new mechanism to provide accurate poll results.

"The quick count has no political motivations at all," Saiful Mujani of the Freedom Institute said in a press conference on Friday, representing the coalition.

The quick count predicted that PDI-P presidential candidate Megawati Soekarnoputri, the incumbent President, would gain the second largest number of votes after Susilo.

Separately PDI-P deputy chairman Roy B.B.Jannis said Kwik's statement on Thursday had nothing to do with the party.

"We never discuss such things at our party meetings as we welcome foreign observers, since it is a common practice around the world," Roy told The Jakarta Post.

NDI director Paul Rowland also rejected the accusation and explained the position of the agency during the election process to the House of Representative Speaker Akbar Tandjung.

"It is up to the Indonesian people to decide who will be the next president," he said after meeting Akbar.

KPU Chairman Nazaruddin Syamsudin also refuted the accusation saying that there was no foreign intervention in the presidential elections.