Polls monitors out in force
INDONESIAN ELECTION ’99
There was little incidence of cheating or polls rigging as the presence of more than 600,000 observers proves a strong deterrent.
ELECTION monitors were out in force yesterday to ensure that Indonesia’s landmark election was free and fair.
A check by The Straits Times with several of them posted at polling stations throughout the country’s 27 provinces suggested that there was little incidence of cheating or polls rigging.
“See for yourself,” said Ms Intan Lestari of the general election committee (KPU).
“Unlike before, people are just too afraid to take that risk.” She said the presence of more than 600,000 local and foreign observers were a strong deterrent.
Each polling station normally had at least five monitors from different agencies.
Armed with survey forms, many sat in a row on the fringe of the tent-house-structured station, to keep an eye on the process.
Mr Agum Suaidi, also from the KPU, said that the more-organised layout and stages of voting made it impossible for “external interference”.
Each voter had to register, wait for his turn to vote, place his vote in a ballot box in public view and then be marked with indelible purple ink on one of his fingers to prevent him from voting elsewhere.
The ink can only come off after two days.
“We’ve made it very hard for people to cheat or influence others to vote for a party the way it happened before,” he said. “Previously, it was very lax. People could take home the ballot papers. There was also intimidation.”
Foreign observers here believe that the situation has improved “by leaps and bounds” compared to previous elections under former leader Suharto when the ruling Golkar party always romped home to victory.
A Western election monitor said that chances of rigging after polling were slimmer.
Besides having monitors and party representatives at each station, there was also a parallel counting system to keep track of any fraud or irregularities.
Results were not just sent to the KPU but also a “quick-tally result centre” housed at the Aryadutha Hotel in Jakarta. There the votes would be tallied as they came in and if the aggregate did not match the KPU’s, monitors could check immediately why there was a discrepancy.
Others said that computer facilities and telecommunications services in rural areas speeded transmission of results without having to rely on the military or bureaucracy as had been the case before.
If there was any fraud, it was likely to have taken place before polling, with some parties dabbling in money politics.
He pointed to instances yesterday morning, when officials from various parties made house visits particularly to rural areas to urge them to vote for a particular party.
Some were paid as much as 50,000 rupiah (S$10) in what is known as operasi fajar.
Noted H. Musthafa Zuhad Mughni of the Nadhlatul Ulama, the country’s largest Muslim organisation with extensive grassroots links in Java: “This is last-minute desperation of some parties to try and swing the votes in their favour especially in places where their popularity is low.”