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Jakarta governor polls hit by voter list uproar

Publication Date : 25-06-2012


Campaigning for Jakarta's gubernatorial election next month began yesterday amid controversy over its electoral rolls, which have been found to contain dubious names.

All five candidates who are challenging incumbent governor Fauzi Bowo, 64, in the July 11 elections have refused to endorse the voter list.

Fauzi, supported by the ruling Democratic Party, is allowed by law to seek a second and final five-year term. His current term ends on September 7.

One candidate has lodged a class action suit against the Jakarta election commission, slamming its recent move to declare the rolls official and ready for the election despite growing complaints.

"With doctored electoral rolls, the Jakarta election cannot be held fairly, as there will be citizens who can't vote and others who can vote more than once," said Habiburokhman, a lawyer who filed the suit against the election commission on behalf of the candidate.

Habiburokhman estimated the number of "irregular names" to be in the hundreds of thousands, from the seven million eligible registered voters.

"We demand that the election commission clean up the electoral rolls under the watch of a court- administered panel. We want the court to postpone the election," he told The Straits Times.

The Jakarta governor's race is closely watched because the winner effectively controls Indonesia's capital of 9.8 million people and an annual budget of 36 trillion rupiah (US$3.8 billion).

As the man in charge of Indonesia's biggest city, the governor enjoys a high profile and receives the most media coverage nationwide of all the governors.

He is also in a position to influence voters in the next general election in 2014.

The camp of candidate Joko Widodo, whom Habiburokhman represents, uncovered in its investigation dubious names as well as names that had been registered multiple times.

For instance, there are two voters with the same name - Achmad Syuja Wijaya - in East Jakarta's Cipinang Muara area. One is male and the other female, according to the evidence list provided in the lawsuit that Habiburokhman filed in the West Jakarta court.

In a case that raised eyebrows, a resident by the name of Suryati Lisma in Cengkareng, West Jakarta, has been registered to vote at three polling stations. "The same name and the same ID card number at three polling stations," said Habiburokhman.

The brouhaha over the Jakarta race is not an isolated one.

Disputes have often clouded elections in Indonesia. In December 2010, the country's Constitutional Court ordered fresh mayoral elections for South Tangerang after evidence showed that local bureaucrats supported one of the candidates.

Just last month, the same court rejected a petition filed by the losing parties in the election for Aceh Singkil's regent. They alleged that the winner had a criminal record.

Indonesia has 600 elected regional government posts, including for provincial governors, regents and mayors. The elections are held at different times and each office-holder has a five-year term.

Indonesians also elect members of Parliament and the President every five years.

Aminullah, the Jakarta election commission's voter registration chief, said it had accommodated all queries and done the necessary follow-ups such as cleaning up the electoral rolls and registering eligible voters who were not on the list.

Postponing the election was not an option, he said. "We have marked all the irregular names on the rolls, and those names will not be able to vote. We have also invited teams from all the candidates to our office and given them direct access to our database for checks and rechecks," he told The Straits Times.

Doctored electoral rolls are just one problem plaguing many elections in Indonesia.

Another - money politics - continues to be a big concern and is more difficult to detect.

It makes running for public office in Indonesia an expensive venture. To win over voters, candidates often hand out sums of money, in addition to items like T-shirts. In communities without proper medical facilities, for example, a candidate may hire an ambulance to ferry sick residents to the nearest clinic or hospital.


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