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Recount ordered in poll chaos JAKARTA - Indonesia's election authority last night ordered a nationwide recount of votes as the country's first direct presidential election descended into confusion over millions of votes wrongly declared invalid. A spokeswoman for the General Election Commission, Sinta Satriana, told the Herald recounting would take place in all 32 provinces in an attempt to work out the total votes for each of the five pairs of presidential and vice-presidential candidates.
The former general Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono is the hot favourite to oust President Megawati Soekarnoputri in the election. Ms Satriana could not say how many of the 580,000 polling booths serving 153 million voters would have to recount votes originally declared invalid. Nor could she predict how much of a delay the confusion would cause.
The Election Commission held an emergency meeting after receiving scores of calls from confused officials who reported thousands of invalid votes soon after counting began. Officials on the ground reported that in some booths, invalid votes outnumbered the votes received by the most popular candidates. In one Jakarta booth, where fewer than 300 people usually vote, 133 votes were originally declared invalid before they were finally declared valid after a recount done on advice from the commission.
In Indonesian elections, voters use a nail to punch a hole in the face of their preferred candidate and only those ballot papers with one hole are declared valid. However, the ballot papers used yesterday were a folded sheet of paper which did not need to be opened fully for voters to see all five candidates. That meant millions of voters punched a hole that went through their preferred candidate and on through another part of the ballot paper containing voting information. Many of those votes were initially declared invalid.
As the extent of the problem became clear, the commission issued a new ruling declaring ballot papers with two holes valid provided only one candidate was punched. But yesterday evening it had been unable to convey that ruling to all the 580,000 polling booths. Many of the booths where counting first takes place had already closed by the time the ruling came out, especially in the east of the country, and in some more isolated provinces voting officials refused to accept the result without seeing a copy of the letter from the election authority.
The team supporting Mr Yudhoyono said his team had lodged a protest late yesterday with the election authority in Indonesia's second largest city of Surabaya and demanded a recount because of concerns their candidate had been unfairly penalised by voting officials. Usamah Hisyam, a member of Mr Yudhoyono's team, blamed the chaos on a lack of information on how to vote.
Observers for all five candidates - Wiranto, Ms Megawati, Mr Yudhoyono, Dr Amien Rais and Hamzah Haz, will all need to return to the polling booths for the recounts to take place according to the instruction from the Election Commission. Because the polling booths are so small the counting was usually done within half an hour, and officials and observers then went home. For the recount to take place, all those involved in the election would have to return to the polling booths, as they are the designated place for counting.
Like the month-long election campaign, voting yesterday was free of any violence, but Mr Yudhoyono warned that might change if he or another candidate failed to win more than 50 per cent in the first round, in which case a run-off between the top two candidates would have to be held in September. "There will be two candidates facing each other, there will be a head-to-head competition, and surely this will be rough," he told reporters before voting amid an adoring crowd of supporters.
"Supporters will face each other and there is the potential for confrontation. This is unavoidable. The key is for the candidates and the supporters to restrain themselves." Mr Yudhoyono's military background has been a decided asset for him in the election. He has also been particularly popular among older women. His fledgling Democrat party won 10 per cent of the seats in legislative elections in April, showing the bigger parties that unless they delivered, their supporters would go elsewhere.



Posted in Elections @ 05 July 2004 00:06 CET by Jeroen · 'Blog' RSS feed · permalink






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