Sat, 10 Jul 2004

No vote-rigging at Al-Zaytun, says KPU

M. Taufiqurrahman and Nana Rukmana, Jakarta/Indramayu

The General Elections Commission denied on Friday allegations that voters had been mobilized to cast their ballots at the Al- Zaytun Islamic boarding school in Indramayu regency, West Java.

KPU member Mulyana W. Kusumah said that no regulation had been breached in the electoral process at the Islamic boarding school.

"If a voter has more than one residence, he or she can decide where to cast his or her ballot on election day. If a voter were to chose to vote elsewhere, he would need to inform the local poll committee," Mulyana said, quoting Article 22 of Law No. 23/2003 on direct presidential elections.

He said voters had the right to exercise their political right wherever they wished.

Two members of Indramayu Elections Commission (KPUD) addressed the media on Friday in relation to the matter.

KPUD member Agung Mardiyanto and Najib Bunyamin said almost 25,000 people who voted at 83 polling stations within the boarding school compound had in fact been registered voters in the area.

"A large number of the voters were in fact family members and relatives of students and staff members who reside in the Islamic boarding school. All were registered by poll committee members in the area as early as May," Agung said.

KPU chairman Nazaruddin Syamsudin also attended the news conference.

Najib denied claims that observers and witnesses from the presidential candidate teams had been wrongfully denied access to polling stations at the Islamic school.

"The witnesses were not allowed to enter the polling stations because they arrived after 7 a.m., the deadline for a witness to register their attendance. However, they were allowed to monitor the balloting from a distance," he said.

Voters registered at Al-Zaytun school numbered 24,825, a dramatic increase from 11,565 in the April 5 legislative election.

The candidates of the Golkar Party, Wiranto and Solahuddin Wahid, garnered a total of 24,794 votes at polling stations located in Al-Zaytun, touted to be the largest Islamic school in Southeast Asia.

As for the deployment of 21 military vehicles carrying voters, Nazaruddin only said: "It is beyond my authority to comment on that. Try asking Pak Endriartono."

The KPU chairman was referring to Indonesian Military (TNI) Commander Gen. Endriartono Sutarto.

A middle-ranking military officer was discharged following his involvement in mobilizing voters at Al-Zaytun.

In a related development, hundreds of residents who lived in the vicinity of Al-Zaytun staged a rally at the Indramayu KPUD office.

The protesters demanded the KPUD invalidate all votes cast from polling stations inside the Islamic school.

After being pushed to the brink by protesters, KPUD member Engkung Kurniati said the local elections commission would hold a plenary meeting next Tuesday to decide whether or not the votes would be accepted.