All systems go for Indonesian polls today

Parliamentary elections likely to draw about 147m voters.

About 147 million Indonesians vote today in parliamentary elections as they brace themselves for a long wait before a new government is sworn in.

After today’s poll, there will be the country’s first direct presidential election in July, and possibly a run-off election in September if there is no clear-cut winner in the first round.

On the eve of D-Day, election fever was in the air as thousands headed for their home towns to vote and major parties resorted to what is known here as ‘dawn raids’.

In an attempt to buy votes, the big players use brokers to go from door to door to offer money in the wee hours of the morning before polling booths open.

As the money seeped in and out of Java, thousands were making their way back to their home towns. Bus and train stations in the capital were packed as people jostled for tickets and crammed into buses and trains headed for the provinces.

Office assistant Suroni, 21, one of the hundreds lining up at the ticketing booth at the Senen train station, is one of the estimated 22 million first-time voters.

He said: ‘I don’t mind waiting for hours to get my ticket. I am going back home to vote. I want to have my say.’

A local train operator said that the number of economy-class commuters had increased by at least 50 per cent over the last two days.

Some Indonesians, however, were in a holiday mood, heading off to tourist destinations to take advantage of the long weekend. Airlines recorded a significant jump in passengers travelling to Bali and Lombok.

As they headed to the mountains and beaches, many others were busy making last-minute preparations for the election.

Residents and officials were busy erecting tents, marking out enclosures for polling stations or setting up tables, chairs and polling booths.

About 595,000 polling stations have been prepared for voters to cast their ballots between 7am and 1pm.

But some problems have surfaced as several regions reported that they had not yet received ballot papers and other polling equipment.

President Megawati Sukarnoputri signed a regulation last Friday that would allow delays in voting in districts, especially in remote areas in eastern Indonesia.

Otherwise, the show looks set to go ahead in the world’s third largest democracy, where voters will choose among 24 parties vying for the 550-seat national parliament.

The results will determine which parties can put up candidates in the presidential election on July 5.

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