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Indonesian Vote Counting Proceeds Slowly - 2004-04-06


In Indonesia, official results from Monday's legislative elections are trickling in, with less than one percent of the vote counted. But a private sampling of voters on election day shows that the party associated with former dictator President Suharto is ahead of the party of President Megawati Sukarnoputri by several percentage points.

The U.S.-based National Democratic Institute released a sampling of nearly 300,000 voters from every province. It shows the Golkar party, associated with the Suharto dictatorship, getting the most votes at 22 percent, while President Megawati Sukarnoputri's party, the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle, trails with 18 percent.

During the last elections, the institute's sampling came within one percent of the official tally.

Six other parties got more than five percent of the total vote, the minimum required to nominate candidates for the presidential election in July. These include two newcomers who gained support from voters unhappy with the government.

The Democratic Party, led by former Security Minister Susilo Bambang Yudhonoyo, received seven percent of the vote, mostly due to his charismatic personality.

The Prosperity and Justice Party attracted votes due to its work among the poor and a reputation for transparency. While the party advocates Islamic ideals, it has toned down its appeal for an Islamic state.

An estimated 120 million voters turned out Monday to elect a parliament, regional assembly, and local legislatures. Indonesia's Center for Electoral Reform says the vote was orderly.

But the center's deputy director, Hadar Gumay, says a high percentage of voters made mistakes on their ballots, rendering them invalid. He says in making the process more democratic, election officials also made it more complicated.

"I think this is due to the new system we have and very limited time to inform the public about this," said Mr. Gumay.

For the first time, Indonesians could directly choose their representatives. As a result, many photographs were printed on the ballots, confusing quite a few voters.

But the head of the Asia Foundation, which sponsors voter education programs, Douglas Ramage, says overall the elections were a success.

"I do not know if we can say it was too complicated or too ambitious because it certainly met? all criteria for a free and fair, democratic election by international standards," said Mr. Ramage.

Although official results are not expected for days, the parties are already maneuvering to form coalitions before the presidential election in July.

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