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Large Numbers Turn Out to Vote in Indonesian Elections - 2004-04-05


Voters in Indonesia went to the polls Monday to elect a national parliament and three local assemblies. Although a few irregularities have been reported, the voting for the most part was orderly.

Voters across Indonesia's 17,000 islands turned out early and in large numbers Monday amid widespread dissatisfaction with the country's current government.

A civil servant in the impoverished Mangarai district of south Jakarta, Koharudin, says this election campaign, like previous ones, was full of empty promises. Mr. Koharudin says he voted for a different party this time and hopes the new government will improve the economy and make health and education more accessible to the poor.

Voters are choosing representatives to the parliament, a new assembly of provincial delegates, and regional and local assemblies. Civic groups were concerned that the process was too complicated and voters did not get enough education.

In central Jakarta, homemaker Juju has come with her friends and children to vote. She says voting was more complex this time. Ms. Juju says there were four ballots and you had to punch the picture of the candidate -- and the party -- on each one. But she says she had fun. She voted for peace, security and lower prices for poor people like herself.

Ruhmina, a housewife, says she went to a briefing last week on how to vote, so she understood the procedures. But she says she did not recognize the candidate's pictures on the ballot. She wants the new government to put a halt to corruption and take better care of the poor.

Harianto, a salesman at a neighborhood store, says he did not have time to go to any rallies, but learned about the campaign and voting procedures through television. He says he voted for the party that his family always supports. Mr. Harianto says he hopes his delegates, as representatives of poorer people, will be fair and honest.

Public opinion polls taken on the eve of the vote show President Megawati Sukarnoputri's party trailing the Golkar party that dominated politics during the authoritarian rule of former President Suharto. But they also show half the voters are undecided.

Despite unhappiness with the two dominant parties, polls show that only a small percentage of voters support the five Islam-oriented parties.

After the polls close on Monday, all parties will scramble to build coalitions ahead of presidential elections due in three months.

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