Wed, 30 Apr 2003

Voter registration drive to be extended by two weeks

Arya Abhiseka, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

The Central Statistics Agency (BPS) has formally asked the General Elections Commission (KPU) to extend the voter registration deadline by another two weeks, saying it will be unable to complete the process by Wednesday as scheduled.

Agus Suherman, the BPS official in charge of the nationwide census and voter registration process, blamed the delay in part on complacent field workers.

He told The Jakarta Post that as of Tuesday the program had reached 70.78 percent of designated areas.

He said his field workers would need until the first week of May to complete the demographic data on population in 120 regencies, while in another 54 regencies the registration would not finish until the second week of May. Agus did not identify the regencies.

Apart from the failure to finish collecting the data, Agus said field workers in some 35 regencies in Central Java had not reported their registration status.

"If we exclude Aceh, we have reached about 80.31 percent registration coverage, and without Aceh and Papua we have reached about 83.18 percent," he said.

Papua and Aceh are two remaining areas that have been given another month for the field officers to complete the voter registration process due to the political situation in both provinces.

There is a possibility that the landmark direct legislative and presidential elections might not be able to be held in the country's easternmost and western provinces of Papua and Aceh due to security difficulties resulting from separatist movements there. Security problems have also been hampering the registration process.

Ramlan Surbakti, the deputy chairman of the KPU, had earlier played down the possibility that the delays would affect the overall process of collecting demographic data, which is slated to be competed by December.

The result of the registration process will determine the number of seats in the House of Representatives. The data will also be used for the purpose of issuing a single personal identification number to every citizen.

The nationwide census and the voter registration drive has been underway simultaneously since April 1, and will cover an estimated 130 million people.

The legislative elections will take place on April 5, followed by a two-stage presidential election slated to take place between June and August.

Agus said his agency would be unable to meet the April 30 deadline due to a lack of motivation and training among field officers.

The BPS, he said, had discovered that many of its officers had farmed the work out to untrained officers resulting in a failure to comply with the set procedures and to record the required information.

"We have found in several areas that field officers have been complacent in carrying out their work. There have also been cases where the officers failed to properly filled out the registration forms," he said.

Each officer is paid Rp 500 (US 56 cents) for every person registered. One officer is expected to register between 1,200 and 1,500 people, earning him between Rp 600,000 and Rp 750,000.

"We never imagined it, but registering people in rich neighborhoods in metropolitan areas is the toughest challenge as the field officers often have to get past guard dogs and security guards," said Agus.