Subject: AFR & ST: Wiranto Blames Westerners, Carter For Probable Defeat

also: ST: Wiranto camp cries foul over recount of votes

Westerners to Blame: Wiranto

Australian Financial Review Thursday, July 8, 2004

By Andrew Burrell

Jakarta - Indonesia's former military chief, Wiranto, tried yesterday to pin the blame for his probable election defeat on Western poll observers, including a group headed by former US president Jimmy Carter.

In a bizarre statement released to the media, Mr Wiranto's campaign office suggested that foreign institutions, including the respected Carter Centre, had been able to influence the result of Monday's presidential election.

The desperate move suggests Mr Wiranto's advisers may have privately conceded defeat at the hands of President Megawati Soekarnoputri and former security minister Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who will both advance to a second round of voting in September.

Mr Wiranto, an indicted war criminal who is backed by the giant Golkar party and is rumoured to have been funded by the former ruling Soeharto family, is facing a loss that would end his political career.

The statement came after one of Mr Wiranto's senior advisers, former general Fachrul Razi, told The Australian Financial Review he did not believe the results of a national quick count released by the Washington-based National Democratic Institute, showing Mr Wiranto in third place.

He said these results were only believed by "bules" - the sometimes condescending word used by Indonesians to describe Westerners.

The Wiranto statement alleges that Western observers who came to Indonesia for the vote had engaged in "strange conduct" at polling stations outside the major cities before and during Monday's vote.

Without referring to specifics, the statement claimed this operation was conducted "silently" and was allowed by the Indonesian authorities to become "out of control".

The statement also claimed that similar "operations" had taken place in East Timor in 1999 - when East Timorese voted to break away from Indonesia - and in the 1999 parliamentary election in Indonesia when Golkar was thrashed.

However, it said this conduct did not occur at parliamentary elections held in April, in which Golkar won most votes.

When contacted about the statement, an official in Mr Wiranto's media centre, Despen Ompusunggu, said it was not the official attitude of the campaign team but was based on reports received from supporters in the regions.

The head of Mr Wiranto's campaign team, Slamet Effendi Yusuf, said Golkar's own manual count showed late yesterday that Mr Wiranto and Mrs Megawati were neck-and-neck.

Partial results released yesterday by the General Election Commission showed Mr Yudhoyono clearly leading the count, with 33.7per cent, ahead of Mrs Megawati (26.5) and Mr Wiranto (22.1), with about half the vote counted.

An administrative bungle led to millions of votes being wrongly declared invalid. Indonesian voters marked their ballot papers on Monday using a nail to pierce a hole in the box next to their preferred candidate. But because they received the papers folded in half, with the names of the candidates on the top half, many ended up punching two holes.

Many polling officials decided these votes were invalid, but the General Election Commission later issued a decree that they must be counted as legal.

Many polling stations did not receive notice of the decree, and some booths had already closed and completed their count.


The Straits Times July 8, 2004

Wiranto camp cries foul over recount of votes

The Golkar candidate's team slams the elections commission for allowing votes that were declared invalid earlier

By Robert Go

JAKARTA - The camp of presidential candidate Wiranto has argued that its candidate may have been 'cheated' by the General Elections Commission's (KPU) handling of double-perforated votes.

Wiranto adviser Rully Chairul Azwar told The Straits Times: 'We see the possibility that Wiranto was disadvantaged, and in a major way.'

They are already talking about the possibility of taking the matter to court.

The Golkar candidate is now embroiled in a do-or-die battle against incumbent Megawati Sukarnoputri for a second-place finish in Monday's vote and the right to go one-on-one in September against front runner Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

With around 60 million votes - about half the projected total - counted so far, the former armed forces chief trails Ms Megawati by 22 per cent to her 27 per cent.

Mr Rully said this goes beyond the sore-loser complex: 'We just don't trust that the recount has been properly done.

'We have no witnesses and there is no monitoring by us during the process.'

If Mr Wiranto ends up third and loses by a narrow margin to the second-place candidates, then 'legal or other kinds of challenges' could be launched.

According to the Sydney Morning Herald, the head of Mr Wiranto's campaign team, Mr Slamet Effendi Yusuf, said on Tuesday that the decision by KPU to allow millions of votes that had been declared invalid had 'deeply affected' the result.

Mr Slamet said that based on his team's counting, Mr Wiranto had been neck and neck with Mrs Megawati in the battle for second place.

'In parts of Central Java, we gained significant votes in the first count, but after the recount, we lost to somebody else,' he said.

Even former United States president Jimmy Carter who led a 60-member observation mission from the Carter Centre had something to say about the problem.

He criticised the KPU's failure to anticipate the problem with invalid ballots and its slowness in correcting it, calling it a 'serious mistake'.

The KPU has defended itself and dismissed what happened as a 'technicality'.

Elections-monitoring body Panwaslu, however, said as many as 40 million ballots might have affected by the problem.

And KPU members are once again under fire, with observers accusing them of having failed to fix a foreseen and simple problem before vote-counting began.

Voters used a nail to punch a hole in the box corresponding to their choice.

But because the ballot papers were folded in half, many ended up punching holes both in their candidate's box and in election material printed in the other half of the sheet.

There was panic on Monday when millions did not completely unfold their ballots, inadvertently making two marks on the sheets of paper.

The KPU originally said such ballots should be disregarded.

But it reversed the decision as polling centres closed their doors and after it became clear that the ruling would have made millions of ballots cast that day invalid, regardless of voters' intentions.

A recount was ordered. Some polling centres complied immediately. But many among the 575,000 polling centres spread out across the nation did not get the KPU decree in time.

A consequence of this: Vote tallies accumulated at higher-level counting centres might have been formulated in two different ways, something that observers said would definitely skew results.

The KPU had been warned about the possibility of such confusion taking place. The same problem occurred during mock voting exercises where invalid ballot rates skyrocketed to as high as 30 per cent.

But the commission failed to nip the problem in the bud and change the ruling on how such votes are to be counted before Election Day itself.

Political analyst Umar Juoro said: 'It's understandable if Wiranto's team is thinking of challenging the results.

'The KPU lacked professionalism and was negligent.

'It shows a lack of experience in organising elections over and over again.'

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