Calm in Jakarta on eve of polls


Streets are quiet and gone are the party flags and posters, but some technical problems are yet to be resolved, like building ballot booths.

AFTER 10 hectic days of official campaigning, most Indonesians yesterday stayed indoors on the eve of the general election.

The streets in the capital, once clogged with thousands of party supporters, were remarkably quiet.

Gone were thousands of mostly red, green, yellow, blue and white flags of the 48 parties contesting the polls.

Also removed by the parties early yesterday morning were banners and posters of party leaders festooned along roadsides, overhead bridges and street lamps.

But in some parts of the city, Ms Megawati Sukarnoputri’s picture and the Indonesian Democratic Party-Perjuangan’s macho black bull symbol still remained visible, suggesting the widespread popularity of the nationalist party in Jakarta. Even more pervasive were the party’s posko gotong royong or communication posts.

Mr Rudini, chairman of the General Election Commission (KPU), warned that all of them had to be removed by midnight yesterday. “If the parties fail to do so, the authorities will demolish them,” news reports quoted him as saying.

While KPU wanted these party vestiges to be brought down during the “cooling off period”, they had also at the same time issued last-minute reminders to district officials to set up polling booths around the country.

International election monitors believed that a number of “technical problems” had yet to be resolved. This included building ballot booths for voting, which they said were nowhere in sight, particularly in outlying areas of the country.

A check by The Straits Times indicated that this was also a major problem in the capital.

Mr Rudini alluded to it when he said over the weekend: “Only in Jakarta are we still facing some problems. Many poll-toll kits are incomplete, such as missing nails to punch the ballots.”

Another concern, said foreign observers, was that telecommunications and computers to relay election results from region to Jakarta were still not ready.

Indonesians, however, appeared oblivious to all this with little inkling of the significance of an election that would make Indonesia the third largest democracy in the world after India and the United States.

For the first time in a generation, there may be real freedom of choice. But with only hours before voting begins, many are still keeping their own counsel.

Of greater importance is not just who wins but what good it would do for Indonesia.

Said 40-year-old street vendor Waskim, who sells nasi goreng for a living: “What’s the point of having an election if it does not bring down food prices but leads to more violence?”

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