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Friday, January 11, 2013

The Carter Center on Indonesia Elections

Monitoring Elections
1999 Elections

After 40 years of military-backed governments, Indonesia held its first genuinely democratic elections for the legislature in June 1999, a process monitored by The Carter Center. The vote for legislative seats was the first step in electing a new president after the May 1998 resignation of President Suharto, who led an authoritarian government for 32 years. While his ruling Golkar party won every election for nearly 20 years, 48 parties were approved for the 1999 ballot when his successor, interim President B.J. Habibie, agreed to hold open elections. The Center and the National Democratic Institute fielded a 100-member delegation led by former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and concluded, along with other international election observer organizations, that the elections were credible and represented the will of the people.

Following the parliamentary vote, Abdurrahman Wahid was selected president in November 1999 by the 700-member People's Consultative Assembly, a body including the legislature and other specially represented regional, social, and demographic groups. In July 2001, however, less than two years into his term, President Wahid was removed from office and replaced by Vice President Megawati Soekarnoputri, following an extended clash with the national legislature regarding Wahid's alleged mismanagement and mishandling of state funds.

Since 1999, Indonesians have gained new political freedoms, but public opinion polls found that most Indonesians were becoming disillusioned with the government and the country's economic decline.

2004 Elections
A Carter Center assessment team met with political parties, election officials, civil society, and observer groups in January 2004, all of whom encouraged international observers from the Center to help build confidence in the elections. President Megawati and the election commission, Komisi Pemilihan Umum (KPU), formally invited The Carter Center to send observers to the elections.

The Carter Center opened a Jakarta office in April 2004 to begin a long-term observation of electoral conditions leading up to Indonesia's July 5 presidential elections. This observation continued through the Sept. 20 runoff to early November.

In late June, with the leadership of former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, Rosalynn Carter, and former Prime Minister of Thailand Chuan Leekpai, the Center deployed 60 international observers to 17 provinces for the July 5 presidential election.

Five presidential candidates were nominated following the April legislative elections, including President Megawati Soekarnoputri, Wiranto (a former military general and standard-bearer for Golkar), Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (another former general, usually referred to as SBY), Amien Rais (speaker of the national assembly), and Hamzah Haz (the incumbent vice president). In the event that no candidate received a majority of the votes, a runoff election would be held between the top two candidates.

The Center's observers generally found the polling stations they visited were well-organized, functioned effectively, and had their full staff and necessary election materials. Polling station officials in some locations, however, were lax in applying administrative procedures.

Of concern to The Carter Center and other observers was the high percentage of ballots classified as invalid across the country because many voters did not unfold ballots completely before indicating their choice. This ballot problem could have been avoided with better planning and more timely training of polling officials and voters. The Center recommended that during verification of the final result, candidate representatives and observers have full access to monitor the entire process to ensure that it is transparent and credible.

Of the five presidential candidates, SBY took the top spot with 33.6 percent of the vote, and Megawati was second with 26.2 percent.

2004 Runoff Elections
The Center's 57-member delegation to observe the Sept. 22 runoff was led by Pete Peterson, former U.S. ambassador to Vietnam and member of the U.S. Congress.

Election regulations restricted the runoff formal campaign period to only three days, which was inconsistent with international norms for political competition in democratic elections. The Carter Center heard many concerns from representatives of political parties, campaign teams, electoral officials, and civil society throughout the country about the illegitimate use and influence of money in the campaign, including vote buying, and the inappropriate use of government resources.

There were fewer problems with invalid ballots in the second round of elections, unlike in July, when significant numbers of ballots were initially ruled invalid because of double punching. The KPU had taken steps to avoid a repeat of the problem, and with only two candidates in the runoff, the ballot paper was substantially simplified. The KPU's directive permitting an early closing of polling stations in certain circumstances was not uniformly communicated or applied, and this created confusion in some stations.

On Oct. 4, the KPU officially announced that Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and Jusuf Kalla won the presidency and vice presidency with 69,266,350 votes (60.7 percent), compared to incumbent President Megawati Soekarnoputri and her running mate, Hasyim Muzadi, who obtained 39.4 percent. Partial returns had consistently suggested such a ratio for the previous two weeks. The quick counts conducted by several Indonesian research organizations, including the Institute for Social and Economic Research, Education and Information, provided an independent check of tabulation and results and thus enhanced the transparency of the vote-counting process.

That these extremely complex elections were carried out in such an orderly and successful fashion is a tribute to the hard work of the millions of election officials and the participation of more than 120 million voters. This election marked an important step in Indonesia's dramatic transition from authoritarian rule to democracy.

Continued Support
In March 2009, The Carter Center deployed three teams of long-term observers to formally launch its limited election observation mission of Indonesia's April 9 legislative elections.  The Carter Center's observers were joined by a small number of short-term observers close to election day.
Due to the small size and limited scope of its presence, the Carter Center teams did not constitute a comprehensive observation mission and did not draw conclusions or issue public judgments about the overall election process.  Instead, the delegates focused their assessment on the administration of the election, the availability and efficacy of electoral dispute mechanisms, and issues related to campaign finance.

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