Sat, 12 Apr 2003

Lack of awareness slows voter registration: BPS

Arya Abhiseka, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Lack of public awareness about the voter registration process has led to delays raising fears that registration of the country's voters will not be competed by the April 30 deadline, the National Statistics Agency (BPS) says.

Agus Suherman, the BPS's head of the national census and voter registration process, said here on Friday that many households were surprised when visited by registration officers, with some taking up a great deal of the officers' time before providing the required information.

"Our officers have told us that many households spend a lot of time trying to find their family registration cards, the identification cards of family members, birth certificates and marriage certificates," Agus said.

The General Elections Commission (KPU) has contracted the BPS to carry out voter registration for the upcoming elections. The KPU has decided to hold the general election on April 5, followed by a two-stage presidential election to be held between June and August 2004.

The BPS has deployed about 230,000 officers to register the some 130 million eligible voters. The country is due to hold its first-ever direct presidential election in 2004.

Agus said the BPS had complained to the KPU about the problem, but its response had been inadequate.

The KPU, in cooperation with the Jakarta Art Institute (IKJ), had prepared a series of public service announcements (PSA) to be aired on TV stations before the registration process started on April 1. However, due to funding constraints, the PSAs were not aired until one week before registration started.

Still, the announcements are few and far between.

"We saw an ad on the census and voter registration once on state-owned TVRI. It was aired late at night -- at 11 p.m.," complained Agus.

KPU member Valina Singka said the commission had reserved advertising slots on TVRI, Indosiar, TPI and SCTV.

"The PSAs are now aired five times a week, including twice during prime time on each of these stations," she said. Indonesia currently has 10 TV stations.

However, she admitted that to be effective the PSAs should ideally be aired ten times a day.

"Another obstacle hindering the campaign is the fact that the local KPUDs have not yet been established," she said.

Agus also admitted that a lack of experience among registration officers might also be hampering the voter registration process. Some officers, he said, were still asking for copies of identification cards and family registration cards, which actually was not allowed.

The officers were also registering people based on family cards, instead of residency.

"They are supposed to register people who have been living there for the last six months or are planning to stay there for the next six months," Agus said.

He added that if a person was registered under a family card, he would still need to be registered based on his residency.

"Some officers have clearly acted wrongly during the registration process," Agus said.