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Thursday, June 10, 1999 Published at 19:32 GMT 20:32 UK

Indonesia's election mystery

Critics say the counting is taking place too slowly

By Asia Analyst Kieran Cooke

Is the Indonesian election riddled with fraud and manipulative practises? Or is it - as government and some international monitors insist - the most open and free vote in more than 40 years?

Indonesia Flashpoints
Four days after polling closed in Indonesia's general election, only a tenth of the votes have been declared.

Some opposition politicians are crying foul, saying the government is up to its old tricks of buying votes and manipulating the election outcome.

With results trickling out painstakingly slowly, the dark clouds of suspicion have been gathering across Indonesia.

Revised schedule

[ image: Indonesian voters are keen for quick results]
Indonesian voters are keen for quick results
Initially, the election commission - composed of both government officials and representatives of the various political parties - said 50% of the vote would be known by late on Tuesday.

Then it revised its timing, saying half the vote would be available by Thursday. Yet by Thursday afternoon Jakarta time, only just over 10% of the vote had been counted.

The government has been put on the defensive. Officials insist the main priority is accuracy, not speed.

Complex documentation aimed at preventing electoral fraud has caused delays. The election commission says there are considerable logistical problems in gathering an estimated 112 million ballots from polling stations spread throughout Indonesia's more than 13,000 islands.

Some outside observers support the official view of events.

Keeping it clean

[ image: Millions of votes are still waiting to be counted]
Millions of votes are still waiting to be counted
They say that under former President Suharto, election results were known even before voting took place.

Now the authorities are going to great lengths to give the appearance of fairness at every stage of proceedings.

But not everyone is convinced.

About half the total vote took place on the island of Java: government critics say those ballot papers should have been gathered together quickly and the results declared well before now.

While the Indonesian Democratic party for Struggle led by Megawati Sukarnoputri still has a major share of the votes so far declared, the government backed Golkar party is beginning to gain ground.

Support base

Golkar says this trend will be maintained as more votes come in from the outlying islands - where, it says, its support has traditionally been stronger than on Java.

However opposition groups say the growth in Golkar votes is due to electoral fraud in these remote areas, where some polling has not been properly monitored.

Whatever the reasons for the long delay in announcing the results, the credibility of the election process is being put in doubt. With each passing day people's suspicions of old-style election manipulation are likely to grow.

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Internet Links

People's Consultative Assembly of the Republic of Indonesia

Indonesian Elections: Special report from the Asia Society

Indonesian National Election Commission - with results service

BBC World Service East Asia Today: Indonesian Election Special

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