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Indonesia Monitors Fear Slow Count

June 10, 1999

JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) _ International observers warned Wednesday that continued delays in vote counting from Indonesia’s freest vote in 44 years could erase public trust in the Southeast Asian nation’s fledgling democracy.

By Thursday night, only 8.2 percent of votes cast in Monday’s parliamentary elections had been tabulated, a fraction of what had been promised by that stage.

``This does not indicate any illegalities or improprieties, but it does arouse questions and concerns,″ said former President Jimmy Carter, whose Atlanta-based Carter Center dispatched 100 election observers.

Election officials blamed the delays on laborious checks against cheating, their own lack of experience and logistical challenges in a nation of 210 million people and 13,000 islands.

``We have to understand that across the country, we have workers who are not capable of doing speedy work,″ said Rudini, chairman of the General Election Commission. ``There is no political background to the delays. The election commission has opted for accuracy, not speed.″

Rudini, like many Indonesians, uses only one name.

Foreign observers reported Monday that the vote appeared to have gone smoothly with only scattered irregularities. On Wednesday, they were more cautious.

``I am extremely concerned about the slowness with which the count has taken place,″ said John G. Morgan, head of a team of monitors from the European Union. ``We also have reports of discrepancies in the vote tallies. If this is true, it will cast grave doubt on the whole process. The slowness itself engenders mistrust and doubt.″

Even though the reform party of opposition leader Megawati Sukarnoputri was leading in early results, it criticized the count. Laksamana Sukardi, the treasurer of Megawati’s Indonesian Democratic Party for Struggle, said the delay might mean vote-rigging was under way.

Some voters also said they feared someone was trying to skew the vote.

``I am worried, but I can’t do anything about it because I am just a little person,″ said Didi Suhandi, a 58-year-old Jakarta security guard.

According to the latest results, the Indonesian Democratic Party for Struggle, headed by opposition figure Megawati Sukarnoputri, maintained its lead with 34.5 percent of the vote. The ruling Golkar Party defied earlier predictions of being wiped out and moved into second place with 21.2 percent. The National Awakening Party of Abdurrahman Wahid, head of Indonesia’s largest Islamic group, was third with 12.6 percent.

The vote contested by 48 parties will determine 462 of Parliament’s 500 seats. The rest will go to appointees of the powerful military, which cannot vote. The legislators will join 200 government appointees in choosing a new president in November.

No single party is expected to have won a majority and coalitions are expected.

Monday’s vote was the first since former President Suharto resigned in May 1998 amid riots and pro-democracy protests.

Indonesia’s only open election was in 1955, just after the country gained independence. Elections held since were largely rigged in favor of government candidates.