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Confusion clouds yesterdays polls JAKARTA - Indonesians were voting in parliamentary elections yesterday in a crowded contest expected to see the former political party of ousted strongman Suharto win the most votes, but not a majority. Nearly 600,000 polling stations opened in stages across the three time zones of the world's most populous Muslim country amid tight security. The ballot has been billed as the biggest one-day vote in history, and is only Indonesia's second democratic election since Suharto's fall in 1998.
A win for Golkar, which has sought to distance itself from the former autocrat who ruled for three decades, could badly dent President Megawati Sukarnoputri's chances of winning a second term in Indonesia's first direct presidential election on July 5. "The economy has suffered, the economic recovery has not yet finished. And you know the increasing of unemployment, the poverty. Everything now, the prices are high. That is why the people are not happy," said Golkar presidential candidate Akbar Tandjung as he cast his vote near his home in Jakarta.
"They know Golkar were already in power for 32 years. They know Golkar has the experience." Indonesia is Southeast Asia's largest economy and Asia's only member of the OPEC oil cartel. Yesterday's results will be followed by a scramble to build coalitions before the presidential election, in which recent opinion polls show Megawati has lost the status of frontrunner.

Lack of equipment

Shortages of election materials, voting cards delivered to dead people and schoolchildren, and confusion over ballots featuring hundreds of names and dozens of party logos bedeviled Indonesia's elections yesterday. Voting in parliamentary elections was delayed in several parts of the country and the polling stations that opened were hampered by a shortage of supplies and confusion over how to mark the ballots, officials said.
They also acknowledged that at least 700,000 eligible voters would not be able to vote because of bureaucratic errors. At the same time, there were reports of voter cards being delivered to children and people who had passed away years ago. Rasim, an 80-year-old Jakarta resident, said he didn't understand a process that required him to choose among hundreds of candidates. He reminisced about voting in the rigged elections that marked the 32-year reign of former dictator Suharto, when there were only three officially approved parties to choose from.
"There are just so many names, so many parties," said Rasim, who filled out three ballots which featured 24 parties. "I don't know who most of these candidates are." Along with choosing candidates for the first time instead of selecting only parties, citizens elected 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 from among 450,000 candidates on four ballots in most parts of the country. Election monitors and politicians predicted a large number of invalid votes, since rules require voters 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. "Under the current system there will be many invalid votes," Vice President Hamzah Haz said after casting his ballot.



Posted in Elections @ 06 April 2004 00:02 CET by Jeroen · 'Blog' RSS feed · permalink






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