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Indonesia to hold vote despite delays JAKARTA - The justice minister has threatened to arrest election officials, thousands of polling stations still don't have ballots and parts of Aceh province are too dangerous to hold a vote. Nonetheless Indonesia will hold parliamentary elections Monday for the second time since the fall of the longtime dictator Suharto in 1998 - though election officials acknowledge voting will be delayed for up to five days in the remote regions of Papua and West Irian Jaya.
"Obviously (the delays) are disappointing but that is not a fundamental flaw in the process," said Glyn Ford, chief observer for the European Election Observation Mission, which includes 230 monitors. "We have to put this in context," he said. "This is probably the biggest and most complex election in the world and takes place in a country that spans three time zones and includes some polling stations that are four or five days walk from the nearest road."
The reports of delays and government bungling have at times overshadowed campaigning in the run-up to Monday's vote, underscoring the chaotic nature of democracy in the world's most populous Muslim nation. Sporadic violence marred the country's first democratic ballot in 1999 and the counting process took over two months. The campaigning has been peaceful this time around despite warnings from intelligence and police officials that Islamic radicals are plotting fresh terror attacks to disrupt the vote.
The General Election Commission has been criticized for hiring companies that failed to make ballot boxes or ballots and for repeatedly missing deadlines. A third of the country lacked election material and voter cards just days ahead of polls, according to the non-governmental People's Voter Education Network. The failures led Justice Minister Yusril Mahendra to threaten election commissioners with jail this week and former President Abdurrahman Wahid to demand the resignation of the commission chairman. Wahid complained that 2 million of his party's supporters have not been able to register to vote.
Logistics also have been an issue, with the election commission turning to air force helicopters, navy frigates and horses to reach polling stations on isolated islands and in mountainous villages. Authorities also have beefed up security in Aceh, where government troops are fighting separatists rebels, and Central Sulawesi, where Muslims have been blamed for a series of deadly attacks on Christians over the past six months.
"People here are worried about snipers," said Yahdi Basmah of the Central Sulawesi Electoral Commission. "They are scared to vote and volunteers are afraid to distribute election materials in remote villages for fear of being killed." Despite the setbacks, election officials said Friday that all but 2,500 of the 585,218 polling stations will be open. Still, areas in the eastern province of Papua face delays and 48 villages in Aceh are barred from voting because they are in areas controlled by the separatist Free Aceh Movement.
Then, there is the ballot itself. With 24 parties and hundreds of names, it is the size of a broadsheet newspaper and almost too big to fit into a polling booth. Complicating matters, voters for the first time will be choosing candidates along with parties. In addition, citizens will elect numerous governing bodies - the national legislature, a regional representatives council that will advise the government and local legislative councils. All told, some 148 million eligible voters nationwide will choose among 58,000 candidates on three separate ballots in some big cities and four in other parts of the country.
On Saturday, hundreds of students held raucous rallies urging people not to vote for either of the two main parties - that of Suharto and his successor President Megawati Sukarnoputri. The parties are rivals but the students say the victory of either would be a setback for reform. Violent pro-democracy protests forced Suharto to resign in 1998 after three decades in power. Rules could also trip up some voters, who are required to either select a candidate and party or just the party. A vote for a candidate alone - or for a candidate and a different party - makes the ballot invalid.
"This is the most complicated election system I've ever seen," said the Asia Foundation's Tim Meisburger, who has monitored elections in Cambodia, East Timor, Sri Lanka, South Africa, Bosnia and Bangladesh. "It's mixing a lot of different types of elections together," he said. "There is quite a bit of concern that voters will not understand the process well enough and that there will be a large number of invalid ballots." To ease the confusion, the government has carried out an extensive voter education campaign featuring television ads, bus billboards and millions of voter guides.
Still, many voters like Dedi Sutadi, a 28-year-old street vendor in Jakarta, remain confused. "I don't understand how to vote," he said. "I'm just going to do what I've always done which is choose a party. There are just too many names and pictures on the ballot."

Posted in Earthquake @ 03 April 2004 00:02 CET by Jeroen · 'Blog' RSS feed · permalink lists all earthquakes that occur in Indonesia. For your convenience we display them in a list and a Google Map. It is as accurate and recent as you can imagine as we check for updates every few minutes. If an earthquake occurs in Indonesia, this is the place to check it out in the first place.

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