Fri, Mar 26, 2004 - Page 5 News List

Security minister warns of elections in jeopardy

AP , JAKARTA, INDONESIA

Indonesia's acting security minister has warned that April legislative elections could be postponed, citing delays in purchasing and sending polling material to many districts across the far-flung archipelago, according to a media report yesterday.

Hari Sabarno told The Jakarta Post that it was unlikely that ballots and other polling material could be delivered by the April 5 vote and said that a decision would be made today on whether to postpone the elections.

In recent days, regional election officials have complained they still have not received upwards of 660 million ballot papers. Delays have also been reported in printing the ballots and procuring ballot boxes.

The General Election Commission, however, says that it has no plans to push back the date of polls. It said it would consult with the House of Representatives in the next few days to determine what, if any action, must be taken to speed up the distribution of election materials.

Indonesia is made up of nearly 17,000 islands and some areas are only reachable by boat or plane. It has forced the election commission to consider some unusual approaches to getting out the vote, including transporting ballots by donkey and Air Force cargo planes.

Restrictions have also been placed on foreign journalists trying to visit war-torn Aceh province ahead of April parliamentary elections, the foreign ministry said yesterday.

As part of a lengthy bureaucratic process, reporters will now have to submit six different documents, including a recommendation letter from the general electoral commission, before the military will issue a permit.

"We have to know that the reporters have a clear purpose there. This is so the military can protect them," said Marti Natalegawa, a foreign ministry spokesman.

Foreign correspondents have complained that onerous press rules have made it all but impossible for them to visit the province on the northern tip of Sumatra island.

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