Mon, 31 Mar 2003

Officials ready to begin registering eligible voters

Arya Abhiseka, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

The countdown to the 2004 general election will start on Tuesday as about 230,000 field officers are be deployed by the Central Statistics Agency (BPS) to conduct a nationwide census and the voter registration process.

"We will begin to collect data on and register President Megawati Soekarnoputri and her family on April 1 to get the public's attention and raise awareness of the upcoming general election in 2004," Agus Suherman, the agency's director of statistical information systems, told The Jakarta Post on Saturday.

Between now and April 30, the agency, in cooperation with the General Elections Commission (KPU), will collect data on each household and register those members who are eligible to vote.

"My field workers will knock on every door to record each household's members and to register voters," he said.

The agency is cooperating with each neighborhood unit in arranging the registration schedule.

Agus called on all families across the country to be available for the collection of data and to provide his staff with family cards and personal identification cards during the registration process.

"The same process will apply to foreigners living here as part of the process of collecting demographic information," he said.

Agus stressed that the BPS would attempt to integrate the demographic data and the voter registration process as part of its bid to compile a single database on the nation's population, which will come in handy for future elections after 2004.

"During the general election in 2009, we will have a firm and reliable database. Therefore, we will only have to register voters in the future," he said.

The General Elections Commission (KPU) has announced that the legislative election will take place on April 5 next year, with the first phase of the presidential election set for June.

In the past, the commission had to conduct the entire of census and voter registration process each time it prepared for a general election.

The KPU has allocated some Rp 407 billion (US$45.7 million) for the one-month census and voter registration process.

After the census and voter registration process officially ends on April 30, the BPS will announce the results in December, including the aggregation of the number of representatives assigned in the House of Representatives.

Meanwhile, Mudji Sutrisno, a member of the KPU, told the Post on Saturday that the commission was aware of several areas that were still facing difficulties in receiving voter registration forms.

"They are mostly rural areas that require extra transportation efforts," he said, without identifying the areas.

The voter registration process will be followed by the verification of the parties eligible to contest the election by the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights up to October and final verification by the KPU up to the end of December.