Mon, 20 Nov 2000

True democracy

With each passing day, the American presidential election looks more like a sinetron (TV drama). The world can look to America as an example of a good democracy (well, partly). This is how a stable, democratic society should run in a time of internal conflict. Let the lawyers argue (and grow rich) as long as the people do not fight each other.

The rest of the saga should stop America preaching to the world about how to conduct fair elections. They don't even trust their own as being free and fair.

I wonder if our friends in Bandung (the IT college) could help our American cousins avoid their little problem in future. It wouldn't be difficult to replace antiquated ballot papers with a touch screen computer system. It shouldn't be too expensive for a country that posts billions of dollars in surplus each year. Voters would see a photo of each candidate, elect their choice by touching it and see the other candidates disappear from the screen. Then they would confirm their vote for the candidate by touching a radio button (or go back to screen one if they change their minds). Guaranteed no "dimpled" votes or machine misreads, and no misleading "butterflies"! And of course, no waiting weeks for a disputed result.

There would be two other advantages that are relevant to Indonesia. First, in a country where illiteracy is a problem, voting by selecting photos would probably represent a huge step forward in advancing people empowerment. Second, it would enable instantaneous and corruption-free vote recording and counting centrally via satellite transmission. Guaranteed no "loss" of ballot boxes or long delays to rig the results in. Poor infrastructure is not a problem in cyberspace.

Of course, America could easily afford a dozen computer terminals in each polling booth across the nation. Are we sure that Indonesia could not afford one or two? Perhaps the price of advancing true democracy here would be well worth paying. Anyway, if our friends in Bandung can help The White House set up the program, perhaps the Americans will be so grateful that they will donate us a few thousand spare computers and portable satellite dishes. Indonesia needs only about 250,000 sets, doesn't it? Small recompense for helping our rich friends out of their agony.


Tangerang, West Java