Subject: AFP: Asian observers say Indonesian polls free except in East Timor, Aceh
Date: Sat, 12 Jun 1999 10:39:17 -0400
From: "John M. Miller" <fbp@igc.apc.org>

Received from Joyo Indonesian News:

Asian observers say Indonesian polls free except in East Timor, Aceh

JAKARTA, June 10 (AFP) - Indonesia's elections were free and democratic apart from in the troubled territory of East Timor and Aceh province, an Asian poll watchdog said Thursday.

The Asian Network for Free Elections (ANFREL) also expressed concern over the slow pace of vote counting, saying it "must be hastened to avert any suspicion and other unnecessary speculation."

The Bangkok-based watchdog deployed 82 observers in 20 provinces, including East Timor and Aceh, to monitor the first polls in Indonesia since the fall of president Suharto last year.

"ANFREL observers believe that, with the exception of East Timor and the province of Aceh, the Indonesian June 7 elections were conducted in a peaceful and orderly manner," president Saiyud Kerdpol said at a press conference.

"This election represents the first democratic exercise after more than 40 years of autocratic rule," he said, reading from a statement.

ANFREL said violence and human rights abuses, voting postponement, low turnout and irregularities at polling stations in Aceh did not allow them to conclude that the polls were free there.

The military has accused Aceh separatists, who have been fighting for an Islamic state since the 1970s, of terrorizing and threatening voters and election officials.

Separatists in turn have warned of military operations to sweep their suspected strongholds.

"In East Timor, there was apathy toward the elections, since the August 8 referendum was viewed as more important, and voting may have been undertaken as a result of fear and intimidation," ANFREL said.

The August 8 referendum follows Indonesia's announcement in January that it was prepared to relinquish the territory it invaded in 1975 if a majority of East Timorese rejected its offer of wide-ranging autonomy.

Several groups, including EU and US observers, have voiced concern that the slowness of counting created room for dirty tricks.

But Adnan Buyung Nasution of the Election Commission said Thursday the delay was due to the "entirely new system" of counting.

"The slowness is the price we have to pay for a secure system. We use a system computerized downwards to the district level and also the people who work are no longer bureaucrats," Nasution said.

"We have to make a choice whether we want quick results but manipulated, or slow but secure."

The Chairman of the Philippine's National Movement for Free Elections (NAMFREL) Jose Concepcion, who was present at the press conference said he saw no mood for cheating.

"Not in a wide scale. As long as the political parties who have really tremendous interests are vigilant at the village level up to the provincial level, there's no doubt," of the counting process, Concepcion said.

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