Accessibility links

Indonesia Set for National Elections Monday - 2004-04-04

Indonesians go to the polls Monday to elect national and local assemblies. (Polls open at 00:01 UTC.) Logistical and administrative problems threaten to delay the vote in some remote areas, leading to protests from students and small political parties.

A group of high school students Sunday demonstrated in central Jakarta, amid reports political parties are planning to pay some voters for their ballots.

A leader, Gema, said the students want to see a clean election. "We hope tomorrow is a good election, because we think tomorrow is very important election for Indonesia's future," said Gema.

People have been demonstrating at the headquarters of the national election commission to protest reported irregularities, including the failure to deliver registration cards, ballot papers and other election documents in dozens of constituencies across the sprawling archipelago of 17,000 islands.

Election officials say most of the country's one-half million polling places have their voting materials, but a few, primarily in remote areas, may not receive theirs in time. President Megawati Sukarnoputri Friday signed an emergency decree allowing the vote to be postponed in these areas.

The logistics for these elections in Indonesia are daunting. About 147 million voters are electing representatives to the national parliament, an assembly of provincial delegates, and regional and local legislatures. As a result, each voter must cast four separate ballots, and the national election commission is overseeing more than 2,000 distinct elections, for which 600 million ballots have been printed.

The elections are seen as an important test for President Megawati, who wants to be the country's first directly elected president when presidential elections are held in three months.

Public opinion polls show that the president's Indonesia Democratic Party of Struggle has slipped to second place, while the Golkar party - dominant during the authoritarian regime of former President Suharto - is in the lead. However, more than half the voters polled say they are undecided.

Twenty-two other parties, including five Muslim-oriented parties, are seeking at least three percent of the total vote, which they need in order to compete in the presidential election. Monday's vote is expected to lead to frantic political jockeying, as parties build coalitions for their presidential and vice presidential tickets.

The official results will be announced by the end of the month.