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INDONESIA POLLS: All geared up for massive exercise

Publication Date : 09-04-2014


A group of soldiers guarded horses carrying metal boxes through muddy tracks leading into a remote village in Bondowoso in East Java on Sunday.

The horses were not carrying gold but ballot boxes meant for the village of Brambang Darussalam.

The villagers are among the 186 million Indonesians who will cast their vote in today's general election. And millions of officials have toiled to ensure the timely delivery of ballot papers, boxes and temporary ballot booths to 33 provinces stretching from Papua in the east to Aceh in the west.

To ensure the election materials are not tampered with, military, police and election officials stand guard 24 hours a day.

Yesterday, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said, after a Cabinet meeting on election preparations, that he has instructed officials to ensure that the polls are orderly and fair.

"If we can preserve this, God willing, Indonesia is another step closer to becoming a stable and mature democracy," he said. "This does not mean our electoral system is perfect... but we can be glad for this real progress."

The horses were just one way of bringing the one-man- one-vote system to a country with three time zones.

Boats were used to transport ballot boxes and papers to islands such as Ende in East Nusa Tenggara province and Sambu islet off Batam.

In Papua province, election materials had to be delivered on foot to remote villages.

"We had to employ people living in the area to bring the ballot boxes to the top of Puncak Ilaga mountain. They carried the boxes up and down mountains through the forest," General Elections Commission (KPU) official Aten Mom told the news website.

Elections in the world's fourth-most populous nation - after China, India and the United States - and Asean's biggest economy throw up big numbers. Some 200,000 candidates are contesting for seats in the national Parliament, as well as 33 provincial and 497 district and city assemblies. Of this number, 6,600 candidates from 12 national parties are vying for one of 560 MP posts.

Nearly 546,000 polling centres have been set up, with each catering to no more than 500 voters. Polling hours are from 7am to 1pm.

While the official results will be known only in a month's time, quick counts done by agencies approved by the KPU will give an idea how the voting has gone.

Ahead of polling, election monitors have accused some candidates of practising "politik uang" or money politics - a euphemism for vote buying.

In Kota Probolinggo in East Java province, election monitors last week confiscated sewing machines and bicycles that a candidate had bought with public funds to entice villagers.

To be sure, as alliances are formed and coalitions firmed up, the next several weeks in Indonesia will continue to see horse-trading between the political parties.

But the political action is not over yet.

There will be more intense campaigning to come in the run-up to the July 9 election, to pick the next president of Indonesia.


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