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Indonesian civil servants 'bound by law to vote for Golkar party'

Straits Times - March 2, 1997

Jakarta – Home Affairs Minister Yogie Memed said Indonesia's six million civil servants had no choice but to vote for the ruling Golkar as they were bound by statutes which said that members had to channel their political aspirations through the party.

Indonesian Civil Servants Corps (Korpri) members were legally free to vote for any of the three political organisations, The Jakarta Post quoted Mr Memed as saying in a report on Friday.

Indonesia's general election is scheduled for May 29. Golkar has won every election since 1971.

The two other parties, the Muslim-based United Development Party (PPP) and Nationalist Indonesian Democratic Party (PDI), have criticised Golkar's policy of urging civil servants to vote only for it.

A recent survey by the Indonesian Institute of Sciences recommended that civil servants be allowed to join any political organisation and said that public service standards would suffer if civil servants remained too closely tied to Golkar. The government meanwhile also issued a mild rebuke to the Catholic Church over a statement telling followers they did not have to vote in the election.

A letter by the Indonesian Bishops' Conference, read out in many Catholic churches last week, said:

"If you really do not feel represented and are sure with all your heart that your aspirations are not channelled, we can understand that you voice your responsibility and freedom by not voting, and you are not sinning if you do not vote."

The government said it would take no action against the church.

Voting is not compulsory but the turnout in the 1992 elections attracted 96.3 million, or 89.6 per cent of registered voters. – Reuters, AFP.