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Indonesia's Presidential Candidates Cry Foul Over Voter Lists

  • Katie Hamann

With official campaigning over in Indonesia, presidential candidates have turned their attention to the issue of voter fraud. The country's electoral commission has been dogged by complaints about duplicate names, deceased persons and children appearing on the rolls since April's legislative elections. The commission says the problems have been corrected but just two days from the vote concerns about the votes legitimacy remain.

The offices of Indonesia's election commission have been fortified with large rolls of razor wire for several months now.

Indonesians protest voter fraud

Protesters have gathered there regularly, since revelations of massive voter fraud emerged, in the lead up to April's legislative polls.

And with the public campaign officially ended, candidates were left with few opportunities for publicity so they too joined Monday's protests.

Together with their running mates, candidates Megawati Sukarnoputri and Jusef Kalla gathered at the National Election Commission in the capital Jakarta, two days before the presidential election.

They stopped short of demanding the election be postponed, insisting the lists be revised and unregistered voters allowed to cast a ballot using only their identification cards.

"We hope that there will be a way out, that we can meet halfway. It is actually very simple; citizen ID cards should be accepted for people who are not on the fixed voters lists on July the 8th," said Arif Wibowo, a campaign spokesperson for Megawati's camp.

The Kalla and Megawati campaigns are not alone in their complaints. Civil society groups and leaders from Islamic organizations have also voiced their concern, saying the commission had failed to address complaints.

Dead people, children and millions of duplicate names have made an appearance on official lists. Concerns have also focused on the denial of voting rights to people not registered or living outside their official electorate.

"I think the essence of democracy is giving the opportunity for the people who will be the leaders of Indonesia for the next five years," said Sunny Tanuwidjaja, a political analyst at the Jakarta based Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Election commission works to resolve issues

The election commission says it has been working to correct the problems and denied the lists still contain millions of errors.

Speaking after Monday's meeting, commission chairman Abdul Hafiz Anshary said his office was waiting for a decision from the constitutional court on the question of whether unregistered voters could cast a ballot using their identification cards alone.

The answer he was waiting for came a few hours later, with the constitutional court ruling that voters could cast a ballot if they present a valid citizen ID card.

But the court also imposed conditions; saying that voters intending to use their ID card must first register with their local election committee and can only cast a ballot in the final hour of polling.

The ruling may come as a relief for some, but Sunny Tanuwidjaja cautions that with just two days to spread the word about the policy change some voters could be left disappointed if they miss out.

"The problem now, as I mentioned, is can you really socialize this decision to the local level within the next day or two because its going to be dangerous if this decision is only socialized to certain areas? And I think that can be detrimental because there are a lot of variations with regards to the rules on Election Day, not because there are different rules, but because you failed to socialize equally throughout Indonesia and that can arguably be one source of illegitimacy of the results of the election itself," said Tanuwidjaja.

The problems with voter lists are unlikely to affect the result. The latest polls suggest incumbent President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has a comfortable lead, with approval ratings hovering above 60 percent.