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Elections to go ahead

Updated On: Mar 10, 2006

Jakarta is insisting that gubernatorial elections in Papua and West Irian Jaya go ahead as scheduled, ignoring grassroots opposition.

Despite some social disturbances like the continuing protests at PT Freeport Indonesia's copper and gold mine in Timika, the government remains confident that conditions are good to hold elections. The elections are also opposed by the local government. The Papuan People's Assembly and the Papuan provincial legislative council opposed the unilateral formation by Jakarta of the new province.

Already scandals over the elections are brewing. The scandals started when Indonesia Survey Circle (LSI), based on a poll of 440 respondents in 19 regencies and a mayoralty last month, named Barnabas Suebu and Alexander Hessegem as the leading candidates for the elections. The pair has support from a coalition of parties, including the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P). Representatives of the other candidates accused the survey's findings of being based on faulty methodology. Some like Yan Ayomi from the John Ibo-Paskalis Kosay campaign, endorsed by the Golkar Party, said the survey was not representative of public opinion.

Other than boycotts threatening the legitimacy of the elections, some are also concerned with the rush elections. This was disputed by the authorities who claimed all election preparations were almost complete, with necessary equipment and ballot papers to be sent to the 1,723 polling stations at least two days ahead of the election, held a day after Papua's polls. Even at this late stage, in spite of Jakarta’s determination to go ahead with the elections, the Papuan People's Assembly (MRP) is still rallying for one last defeat of the elections through Papua caretaker Governor Sodjuangon Situmorang, urging him not to allocate funds from the special budget allocation for the West Irian Jaya election.

Because of local opposition and the prevailing scandals, some groups have decided to boycott them. Four of nine local governmental regencies have already stated they will boycott the elections. They join the growing chorus of people who have spoken out against partition in Papua and Irian Jaya. These elections are crucial because they have split Indonesian opinions. The country has already got to live with an independent East Timor.  Will Irian Jaya / Papua be next to go? That is probably the question in some people’s minds as former President Megawati recently fretted in public.

Sources:

Govt says no going back on polls in W. Irian Jaya, The Jakarta Post, 7 March 2006

 Boycott threat looms for West Irian Jaya elections, The Jakarta Post, 8 March 2006