Indonesian military calls for patience as vote count drags on
June 9, 1999
JAKARTA, Indonesia (CNN) -- The powerful Indonesian military said Wednesday that counting the votes from Monday's legislative election was going as fast as possible despite opposition complaints that the count was too slow.
"The counting cannot be obtained at one go but is done in stages," armed forces commander General Wiranto said.
Wiranto asked the 48 parties participating in the Pacific country's first free election in 44 years for patience.
"Don't take any unnecessary actions which would set back the development (of democracy), especially in the counting of votes period," he said.
Indonesian election officials had hoped to have 50 percent of the vote counted by Tuesday night, but on Wednesday evening the General Election Commission (KPU) said it had counted just 4.4 percent of more than 100 million votes cast in the election.
At last report, Megawati Sukarnoputri's Indonesian Democratic Party for Struggle (PDI-P) led with 38 percent of the vote, followed by Muslim political leader Abdurrahaman Wahid's National Awakening Party (PKB) with 21 percent. President B.J. Habibie's ruling Golkar party was third with 15 percent.
Golkar was the party of former President Suharto, who resigned in May 1998 amid riots and pro-democracy protests. Suharto became president in 1967 when the army deposed Indonesia's founding President Sukarno, Megawati's father.
Opposition leaders were concerned that the slow vote count meant trouble.
"These delays could raise suspicion," said Amien Rais of the National Mandate Party (PAN). "Why is it taking so long? There might be something sinister behind this."
Rais' PAN was in a disappointing fifth place with 5 percent, but Rais, considered a front-runner for November's vote for a new president, was unconcerned.
"It's too early to tell," he said. "We might be able to see a trend after more than 30 percent of voters have been covered. There might be a change by then."
Laksamana Sukardi, treasurer of the PDI-P, said the delay might mean that vote-rigging, a common practice under Suharto, was under way.
"If it is taking so much time, I am afraid the momentum is gone, and I am worried about some kind of manipulation," Laksamana said Tuesday night.
But election officials said the delay had more to do with a lack of training in the process.
"This is a new system, and this is a new kind of election where people are still learning how to practice all these procedures," said Anid Mallarangeng of the KPU.
Election commissioners added that elaborate systems in place to stem voter fraud were also slowing down the count.
International election observers said they would not endorse the elections as fair until the votes are counted.
European Union monitors said they were "extremely concerned" about the slowness of the vote count.
"This will cast gravest doubts that the whole operation will in the end be conducted as it should be," chief observer John Morgan said.
He said the EU had also received reports of discrepancies between the voting papers and what was being transferred to computers. "This is very serious and it is uncorroborated. We are very concerned," Morgan said.
U.S. observers said continued delays could lead to increased confusion and tension among the candidates and the Indonesian public.
"This does not indicate any illegality or impropriety but it does arouse questions and concerns among the people," said former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, who helped monitor the elections.
Candidates competed for 462 of parliament's 500 seats. The rest will go to appointees of the military, which cannot vote.
The legislators will join 200 government appointees in choosing a new president in November.
Jakarta Bureau Chief Maria Ressa contributed to this report.
Megawati leads as Indonesian election results trickle in
Asia Society - Indonesia's 1999 Elections - A Second Chance for Democracy
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