Sat, 26 Apr 2003

UNDP pledges to raise $30m for elections

Arya Abhiseka, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

The international community has renewed its commitment to ensuring democratic elections in Indonesia, with the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) agreeing on Friday to raise some US$30 million in grants from donors to help the cash- strapped government hold elections in 2004.

The funds will be channeled into the state budget before being disbursed to the General Elections Commission (KPU), which is organizing the elections.

"There are about five to six institutions that have pledged their commitment to helping fund the general election.

"However, only the European Community is willing to be identified as one of the donors," said Bo Asplund, the UNDP's country representative.

The election law stipulates that the 2004 general election must be funded by the state and regional budgets only. However, the government and the KPU have said that any foreign aid would be legal as long as it was channeled through the state budget.

Asplund said the UNDP was currently awaiting donors' recommendations before disbursing the funds.

KPU chairman Nazaruddin Sjamsuddin, meanwhile, told reporters that the commission had budgeted some Rp 3.82 trillion (US$429 million) for the elections. Of this amount, Rp 3.023 trillion will be used for the general election on April 5 and Rp 800 billion for the two-phased presidential election sometime the following June and August.

"We gladly welcome the commitment shown by the UNDP in contributing to our process of democracy," he said.

The UNDP earlier this year said it would not provide financial assistance to the KPU, but rather would furnish the commission with technical assistance, such as training KPU employees.

There has been skepticism that the government would be able to provide the money needed to hold the elections, while observers worry that any foreign donations could be the source for rampant corruption, as believed to have occurred in the 1999 elections.

Asplund said the grants were a commitment of the trust the UNDP has in the government to use the money properly to hold a fair and direct general election.

The KPU said on Friday it would contract the Association of Indonesian Accountants to ensure accountability in the upcoming elections.

For the 1999 general election, the UNDP channeled some $90 million to the government and non-governmental organizations, as well as providing technical assistance.

Indonesia will have its first ever direct presidential election between June and August next year. Some 130 million eligible voters are expected to cast their votes.