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Indonesia Tackling Corruption, Conflict in 2009 Elections


International agencies are helping Indonesia prepare for a massive country-wide election in 2009 that will include local offices in hundreds of districts. As Chad Bouchard reports from Jakarta, election officials hope to avoid past mistakes.

Indonesia is getting an early start as the country prepares for presidential and local elections next year.

It will be the second democratic presidential election since President Suharto stepped down in 1998.

The UN Development Program's country director in Indonesia, Haakan Bjorkman, says the international community wants Indonesia's elections to be clean and fair.

"Indonesia has emerged as the strongest and most healthy democracy in Southeast Asia, so we predict in 2009 that all eyes will be on Indonesia to see if the election assistance can work in a good way. And that this success story can continue," said Bjorkman. "The stakes are very high for this region."

Indonesia's parliament is considering a bill that would set up a system to certify political parties and schedule elections for April 5 next year. Election officials fear delays in passing the bill could postpone the elections.

The bill would cap campaign donations at $100,000 per person and $500,000 for companies.

Political analyst Wimar Witoelar says getting polling stations ready and distributing ballots are the least of Indonesia's election concerns.

"But how to get the influence of money out of the system, especially now that Suharto's money has been temporarily left unscathed and running around and that bodes very ill for the attempts we have," said Wimar. "So ours is a very big political problem, not a mechanical problem of elections."

Kevin Evans is an experienced election observer working on reconstruction in Indonesia's Aceh province. He says some voters wrongly accused Indonesia's election commission of graft in 2004 and

attacked election staff. He says this time around officials are making it clear that the election commission oversees the election process, but does not carry out the polling.

Evans says confusion over the balance of power between the commission and the local government led to chaos during the last general election.

"And I think when you have an imbalance between those rights and responsibilities and authorities, then you are opening up an integrity trap," he said. "And so I think that one of the important findings of those earlier elections has been addressed."

Earlier this month, Transparency International, Corruption Watch, and other groups announced plans to issue a blacklist of politicians suspected of corruption to raise awareness among voters.

On Wednesday, the Indonesian Election Commission and the UN Development Program signed an agreement to formalize foreign help for the 2009 elections.

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