Huge ballots bemuse Indonesians

Indonesians have voted in parliamentary elections in a crowded contest that may see the former political party of ousted strongman Suharto win the most votes, but not a majority.

    The high number of candidates made voting papers enormous

    Tens of thousands of police were deployed during voting on Monday at nearly 600,000 polling booths in the world's most populous Muslim country.


    Voters struggled with newspaper-size ballots to choose from dozens of parties and hundreds of candidates.


    "It's confusing because the ballot paper is so big," said a voter in Jakarta. "After you open it, it's hard to close it back up."


    The election for the parliament and local legislatures was billed as history's biggest one-day vote, and was only Indonesia's second democratic vote since Suharto's fall in 1998.


    Polls closed at most voting stations at 1pm (0600 GMT) and at some places counting began shortly after that, although it could be one or two days before meaningful results are known.




    A win for Golkar - which has sought to distance itself from the former autocrat who ruled for three decades while taking credit for economic growth then - could badly dent President Megawati Sukarnoputri's chances of winning a second term in Indonesia's first direct presidential election on 5 July.


    "The economy has suffered, economic recovery has not yet finished. And you know of increasing unemployment, poverty," said Golkar presidential candidate Akbar Tandjung as he cast his vote near his home in Jakarta.


    "It's confusing because the ballot paper is so big. After you open it, it's hard to close it back up"

    Unnamed voter,

    At a booth in Surabaya, Indonesia's second-largest city, Limanto Wijaya said: "I want to see the security and economic situation here become as good as they were in the past."


    "The current government has made businessmen bankrupt and unemployment soar."


    Indonesia is southeast Asia's largest economy and Asia's only member of the OPEC oil cartel.


    Monday's results will be followed by a scramble to build coalitions before the presidential election, in which recent opinion polls show Megawati has lost the status of frontrunner.


    Amid fears of unrest, 275,000 police were deployed, but voting was largely peaceful across the vast archipelago, apart from some minor violence in the separatist Aceh province.


    More than 147 million voters were eligible to participate in the vote for the 550-seat parliament and local legislatures. A total of 7800 candidates from 24 parties competed for the 550 seats.

    SOURCE: Reuters


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