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Election volunteers now in 22 provinces

Jakarta Post - January 8, 1999

Jakarta – The Independent Election Monitoring Committee (KIPP) now has volunteers in 62 cities in 22 provinces, its secretary general, Mulyana W. Kusumah, said on Thursday. Mulyana told The Jakarta Post that he could not give the total number of volunteers because registration was still in progress. In September, Mulyana told reporters that the committee, first set up to monitor the 1997 elections, had 9,000 volunteers in 47 cities in 14 provinces. Ideally, Mulyana said, the committee would deploy around 300,000 volunteers to monitor polls in the country's 324 regencies. "There should be at least 100,000 monitors," he added. In easily accessed areas, he said, one volunteer could cover four to five polling stations by using, for example, a motorcycle, while in remote areas one volunteer per polling station was needed.

Mulyana, a lecturer at University of Indonesia, said the committee needed Rp 6 billion to monitor the polls in the country's regencies in the upcoming election slated for June 7. Universities have also recently established independent monitoring networks. One of these watchdogs is the University Network for a Free and Fair Election, established last month by universities and colleges in several provinces. A similar network of universities and colleges will be established soon, with its main objective to monitor the polls in Central Java. "KIPP welcomes the recent establishment of private poll monitoring groups because in the present relatively open political situation the role of such bodies is important to institutionalize democracy," the committee executives said in a letter to the Post on Thursday.

On Thursday, Mulyana said that donors from Europe and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) had committed an unspecified amount of funds to the committee. USAID is also enabling the committee to send six of its volunteers to the Philippines next week to join an apprenticeship program with the Philippines National Movement for Free Elections. Mulyana said another party, the United States-based National Democratic Institute, was supplying KIPP the funds to establish branches and training centers, as well as providing technical assistance to the committee. Training for monitors has begun in Jakarta and will soon continue in areas outside the capital. All training sessions must be completed before March, to give the committee enough time to finalize preparations for the June 7 poll, Mulyana said. He added that while the draft of the new election bill recognizes private poll observers, more details would be needed to ensure formal acceptance of the monitors.

KIPPs establishment in 1996 was met with reluctance by the government, and while the committee was not banned, its presence was not paid attention to, he said. Mulyana said that the committee had already begun to monitor the deliberations in the House of Representatives on the new political laws, including the bill on elections. Among its activities, KIPP has worked with other groups under the Consortium of National Legal Reform to draw up alternative drafts of the political bills. Further actions will be taken in line with the election schedule, such as the monitoring of electorate registrations and the selection by election organizers of which political parties will be eligible to contest the polls, he said. Mulyana called on other monitoring networks to work with KIPP in setting basic standards of what constitutes an election violation. The committee was founded by around 40 activists in March 1996, including Goenawan Mohamad, Nurcholish Madjid, Permadi, Adnan Buyung Nasution and Mulyana. Lawyer Todung Mulya Lubis was not involved in founding the committee as reported on Thursday.