Mon, 24 Feb 2003

Megawati urges peaceful elections

Fabiola Desy Unidjaja, The Jakarta Post, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

President Megawati Soekarnoputri called on the Indonesian community here on Sunday to hold the first direct presidential election in 2004 peacefully, to show the country's commitment to nurturing democracy and reform.

She said that, after having survived the first democratic elections in 1999, Indonesia must be able to maintain peace in the 2004 elections.

"We have been preparing all matters necessary for the elections and everything has been agreed upon by the country, so we all have to agree that the upcoming elections must proceed peacefully as it did in 1999," Megawati said.

She acknowledged that the next elections would be very difficult in regards the procedures, but these would ensure the fulfillment of the people's aspiration to choose their own representatives and president freely.

"In the upcoming election, we will have to go through series of steps from the elections of regional legislative council members and members of the House of Representatives, as well as the president and the vice president," Megawati said.

"Hopefully, in the 2004 elections we can once again prove that we are consistent in fulfilling our democratization process and reform movement," she underlined.

Megawati's statement came after the House passed the election bill into law, after having settled several contentious issues in the draft law, including allowing state officials to campaign in the next polls.

Megawati, who also chairs the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI Perjuangan), which won in the 1999 elections, would contest the 2004 direct presidential election against her challengers, like Amien Rais.

More than 230 political parties have registered to contest in the 2004 elections, but politicians wanted less than 10 parties to take part in the polls.

However, Minister of Justice and Human Rights Yusril Ihza Mahendra said that so far, only eight political parties had re- registered with his office.

He said there would be around 130 million voters spread out through the 30 provinces and 370 regencies in Indonesia.

"That is a lot of people, and we have to register them starting mid-2003. But with the preparations that we have been making, we hope to see a successful election to establish a new government until 2009," Megawati said.