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Postelection Statement on Indonesia Election, Sept. 22, 2004


CONTACT: Eric Bjornlund
In Jakarta, (62-21) 383-5153

The second round of Indonesia's historic first direct presidential election has taken place successfully, in a general atmosphere of calm, order, and open participation. The Carter Center congratulates the people and leaders of Indonesia for the successful conduct of the presidential election and for the peaceful atmosphere that has prevailed throughout Indonesia's three rounds of elections in 2004. This represents a major step in the country's ongoing democratic transition.

The Center's preliminary assessment is strongly positive. To support the continued strengthening of Indonesia's electoral processes, our monitoring efforts have highlighted a number of concerns that should be addressed to further improve elections in Indonesia in the future. These include the length and substance of the political campaign, the standardization and effective communication of polling procedures, and the capacity of candidate witnesses.

Carter Center Monitoring in Indonesia

As part of its program to promote genuine elections and support democratic development in Indonesia, The Carter Center has observed the Sept. 20 second-round presidential election. As the first direct presidential election in Indonesia's history, this election is historic. The Center was invited by the Indonesian Election Commission (KPU) to observe the 2004 legislative and presidential electoral processes, and all major political parties have welcomed the Center's role.

The Carter Center established a field office in Indonesia in April and deployed 15 long-term observers across the country to monitor election preparations, voter education efforts, the openness of the campaign, national and local politics, and related issues. The Center's observers have visited 31provinces. For the July 5 first-round presidential elections, the Center deployed a 60-member delegation led by former U.S. President Carter and former Prime Minister Chuan Leekpai of Thailand.

The Center's current 57-member delegation is led by Douglas "Pete" Peterson, former U.S. Ambassador to Vietnam and member of the U.S. Congress, and includes international observers from 13 countries. The Center's observers met with local officials, campaign teams, and domestic observers, and observed the voting, counting, and initial tabulation in 21 provinces. The delegation leadership met in Jakarta with President Megawati Soekarnoputri and representatives of both campaigns, as well as the chairman and members of the KPU, leaders of nonpartisan domestic election monitoring organizations, political observers, journalists, and others. We have coordinated our efforts with the European Union election observation mission and other international observers, and we appreciate the assistance provided by the International Observer Resource Center. We also have coordinated closely with a number of domestic election monitoring organizations. We would like to extend our thanks to all of the many individuals and organizations that have facilitated our understanding of Indonesia's politics and electoral process.

Assessment of the Election

As in July, the Center's preliminary assessment of the final round is positive. 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. Although the process is not yet complete, we are confident the vast majority of voters were able to exercise their democratic rights without significant hindrance. We congratulate the people and leaders of Indonesia for the successful conduct of the presidential election and for the peaceful atmosphere that has prevailed throughout Indonesia's three rounds of elections in 2004.

Because the tabulation and verification of final results are ongoing, however, it is too early to conclusively evaluate the election process as a whole. The Center will maintain a long-term monitoring program through the inauguration and beyond and will issue a comprehensive report on the entire election process at a later date.

In the spirit of making a constructive contribution, we offer the following comments that may be helpful in developing plans and improving procedures for future elections. The problems we did observe are not significant enough to affect the overall result of this election process.

Restrictions on Campaign in Second Round

The considerable restrictions on the campaign in the second round of the presidential election are inconsistent with international norms for political competition in democratic elections, including norms of freedom of assembly and freedom of speech. The election law states in the event of a second round, the two remaining candidate pairs "may improve their vision, mission and program, under the regulation and facilitation of the KPU." The official elucidation of the law directs the KPU to regulate that this process "be no longer than 3 (three) days, for which funding is given by the KPU." The provision of only three days for candidates to expand on their mission, vision, and program is insufficient to ensure that candidates have a reasonable opportunity to communicate their messages and compete for votes. Furthermore, by limiting the activities of candidates even during the three-day campaign, including banning campaign rallies and outdoor campaign activities, the KPU's interpretation of this provision was unduly restrictive, regardless of whether both campaign teams had agreed. Although we are aware the KPU and others have defended these restrictions on the ground that they mitigate the threat of violence, we urge Indonesian authorities to revisit this issue, especially in light of the successful conduct of three electoral events in 2004.

"Money Politics"

The Carter Center has 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.

The Polling Process

Carter Center observers monitored voting day processes at nearly 300 polling stations, most of which were reported to be well organized. Our observers rated 81 percent of the polling stations they visited as "very good" or "good."

The successful conduct of this year's elections in Indonesia is a significant accomplishment. With 155 million eligible voters and approximately 575,000 polling stations, Indonesia's elections are the largest single-day election in the world. We applaud the commitment and dedication of the millions of election officials throughout the country.

The ballot. We note that unlike in July when there were significant numbers of ballots initially ruled invalid because of double punching, there were fewer problems in the second round with invalid ballots. The KPU took steps to avoid a repeat of the problem, and with only two candidates in the runoff, the ballot paper was substantially simplified.

Early closing of polling stations. The KPU's directive for the second round that permitted an early closing of polling stations in certain circumstances was not uniformly communicated and applied and created confusion. One of the conditions in the directive--that all eligible voters had voted--could almost never be literally met. Nevertheless, many polling stations closed early even though all eligible voters had not voted as required. Many polling station committees evidently interpreted the provision as permitting early closing as long as there were no more voters present and candidate witnesses agreed.

Polling officials showed us a directive from at least one provincial KPU that permitted early closing of polling stations without any mention of preconditions. Moreover, several polling stations closed well in advance, even of the early closing time of 11:30 a.m. As a result, some voters who arrived after the close of polls in certain locations found they could not vote. In at least one case a poll had to re-open Sept. 21 to allow additional time for voting. We recommend authorities adopt and enforce a consistent closing time for all polling stations.

Administrative procedures at polling stations. Carter Center observers noted the KPU took steps to try to address problems identified during the April and July elections. Many polling stations had received and used the training booklet published by the KPU with United Nations Development Programme support. Nonetheless, Center observers reported polling station officials in some locations did not consistently apply administrative procedures, including several standard procedures to prevent multiple voting and other malpractices. For example, many officials did not check voters' fingers for ink before voting, did not ask for voter cards, or failed to cross names off the voter roll. In many polling stations, KPU invitation letters were used as the only document for voter identification. In addition, some polling stations were located in places that were not open or accessible to election observers or the general public. Although these lapses did not appear to affect the integrity of the vote, KPU election officials should review these procedures and attempt to ensure strict adherence to procedures in future elections.

Carter Center observers in the provinces of Papua and West Irian Jaya noted a lack of funding and administrative failures that exceeded those observed elsewhere. In addition, while the participation of ethnic Papuans increased significantly from the 1999 elections, there continues to be a lack of informed engagement in the democratic process.

Counting and consolidation of results. We note the vote tally report form (Form C1) was not well designed because the page where polling station officials and candidate witnesses were supposed to sign to acknowledge their assent to the results was on a separate page from the results. These signatures could be separated easily from the main form, and this allows for potential falsification of results. The KPU's supplemental directive that officials and witnesses should initial the results on the first page was not followed in every location.

Candidate Witnesses and Election Observers

Past experience in Indonesia and elsewhere has demonstrated the significant contribution that effective candidate witnesses and nonpartisan domestic election observers can make to the credibility and integrity of the election process. Our observers reported more than one candidate witness was present at most polling stations, but they also noted the presence of witnesses varied widely, and many witnesses did not appear well trained or informed about the balloting and counting process.

The Center was disappointed we encountered domestic observers in relatively few polling stations. Accredited international and domestic observers were supposed to have access to the tabulation process, but it remains unclear whether domestic observers have been able to effectively monitor the tabulation process at the village and higher levels. On the other hand, the quick counts conducted by several Indonesian research organizations, including the Institute for Social and Economic Research, Education and Information (LP3ES), provide an independent check of tabulation and results and thus enhance the transparency of the vote counting process.

Resolution of Disputes

In the days before the September election, we note the confusion about the use of the police in helping the Election Supervisory Committee (Panwas) to obtain election results. The Carter Center previously has expressed concern about the friction between the KPU and Panwas. We continue to believe it is important to have an institutional check on the KPU and an effective, timely mechanism for resolution of disputes, including those between candidates and the KPU.

Elections under a State of Civil Emergency

The conduct of elections in conflict and postconflict areas is understandably difficult. The presence of military and police can provide a reassuring environment of security but also can be intimidating to some citizens. The state of civil emergency and ongoing conflict in Aceh hinder the freedom of movement and assembly necessary for open, competitive elections. Although our observers reported the polls in Banda Aceh were well conducted, they did not observe outside of the capital city. Center observers received reports that the military's assistance in transporting voters may have intimidated some citizens.

Media Freedom

The dramatic emergence of a free and dynamic press since the fall of the Soeharto regime has both reflected and contributed to the emergence of democracy in Indonesia. However, restrictions on the press can have a chilling effect on political coverage and the open exchange of information. While the professionalism of some media is still developing, the use of criminal prosecutions against journalists violates universal norms of freedom of the press and threatens to intimidate the press community. In particular, we are very concerned about the criminal prosecution and sentencing of the chief editor of a highly regarded magazine for alleged libel. We urge Indonesia's courts to respect the freedom of the press.


The successful conclusion of Indonesia's presidential elections represents a major step in the country's ongoing democratic transition. Continuing efforts to build accountable, effective political institutions and to ensure citizens can meaningfully participate in the political life of their country are essential to the consolidation of democracy. The Center encourages Indonesia's political leaders, government officials, and election authorities to ensure accountability for problems in this and previous rounds of elections and to consider further electoral and institutional reforms. We also urge attention to the upcoming series of elections of governors and other local government officials.

This election marks a watershed in Indonesia's democratic consolidation. In just a few years, Indonesia has made a dramatic transition from authoritarian rule to democracy. The Carter Center congratulates Indonesia for the series of successful elections in 2004 and offers its support to the continuing consolidation of democracy in Indonesia.


The Carter Center was founded in 1982 by former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and his wife, Rosalynn, in partnership with Emory University, to advance peace and health worldwide. A not-for-profit, nongovernmental organization, the Center has helped to improve life for people in more than 65 countries by resolving conflicts; advancing democracy, human rights, and economic opportunity; preventing diseases; improving mental health care; and teaching farmers to increase crop production. To learn more about The Carter Center visit

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