Thursday, May 20, 2010


Jakarta, May 20, 2010 (ANTARA) - Using the electronic voting (e-voting) system in the general elections in 2014 has lately become a public discourse in Indonesia.

Some officials have expressed pessimism and others optimism the e-voting system can be applied in this archipelagic country with a population of around 230 million.

Among the pessimists was Home Affairs Minister Gamawan Fauzi who believed that the Indonesian public were not ready for electronic voting (e-voting) in the presidential and legislative elections in 2014.

"Our public is not ready. Our people feel more comfortable with ballots. Especially people in remote areas are not used to technological devices such as computers," Minister Gamawan Fauzi said on the sidelines of a national dialog on the use of the e-Voting system in the 2014 general elections organized by the Agency for Assessment and Application of Technology (BPPT) Wednesday (May 19).

Besides, the application of the e-voting system would require standardization of infrastructure, provision of technological facilities, an adequate budget, trained human resources, and other things, and it should be included in the revised regulation to implement the General Elections Law, according to the minister.

"E-voting also needs the existences of a Population Administration Information System (SIAK) and electronic identity cards (e-KTP)," he said.

He also pointed out the electronic system must also anticipate problems such as power blackouts, hacker attacks, viruses and other technological incidents.

Sharing the minister`s pessimism was Ganjar Pranowo, the chairman of the Working Team on the Revision of the Law on General Elections from the House of Representatives` Commission II, who stated e-voting in the 2014 general elections would be impossible.

"E-voting for the presidential elections will still make sense, but, it`s impossible for legislative elections, except if we want to change the proportional system to the district system," he said.

General Elections Commission (KPU) Chairman Abdul Hafiz Anshary sounded little optimistic as he believed that the e-voting system can already be applied in the 2014 presidential election but not in the legislative polls.

"It will be still difficult to use the system for the legislative elections which are very complicated," Hafiz Anshary said at the same dialog.

Legislative elections in Indonesia use an open proportional system with up to 38 political parties participating in the 2009 elections, and each party nominating up to 12, even 33 candidates, he said.

However, he believed that BPPT Chairman Marzan Aziz Iskandar had anticipated the complication by providing appropriate technology, for instance by using button 1 for the party and 2 for the candidates.

He added, however, that general elections needed to be supported not only by facilities, but also by infrastructures such as electricity and internet which are not yet available in many regions in Indonesia.

"In India up to 700 million people participated in the general elections but geographically the country was still in one continent and applying a simpler district system (than that in Indonesia). Meanwhile, Indonesia`s 171 million eligible voters are spread in more than 10,000 islands," he said.

From the facility concern, BPPT chairman Marzan Aziz Iskandar said his agency was ready technologically and had even tried it in village head elections in Jembrana District, Bali Province, last year.

The basis of the e-voting system is electronic identity cards (e-KTP) which are expected to be ready by 2012 nation-wide, but have been tried in six districts/cities, namely Padang (West Sumatra), Denpasar (Bali), Jembrana (Bali), Yogyakarta (Java), Cilegon (West Java) and Makassar (South Sulawesi).

Ealier last week, the BPPT chairman said e-voting offered a number of advantages, such as it simplifies the voting process, saves money from the ballot printing, and easier and fasting ballot counting.

Dr. Iskandar pointed at India as an example of a country applying e-voting technology. India spent only 0.75 US dollar per vote. For Indonesia with a population of around 200 million, the cost was assumed to be only 150 million US dollars, or Rp1.5 trillion.

"Please compare with the 2009 Indonesian general elections which had cost Rp21 trillion," he said.

Other countries which have implemented elections using the e-voting system were among others the United States, Russia, Canada, France, Brazil, India, Jepan, Peru, Venezuela, Kazakhstan, and the United Arab Emirates.

"In the ASEAN region, the Philippines was the first nation to apply the e-voting system in general elections, namely on May 10, 2010," he said.

Other nations that had already begun using the new system were Argentine, Chile, Chzech, Finland, Greece, Italy, Latvia, Mexico, Nigeria, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, and Sweden.

"We are ready technologically. However, concerning the policy and laws, stricter regulations are needed before we can apply the e-voting system ," BPPT Chairman Dr Marzan Aziz Iskandar, stated.

The application of the e-voting system needed electronic-identity cards (e-KTP) currently being developed by the government in the Population Administration Information System (SIAK).

"The Home Affairs Ministry has set a target that all Indonesian people will use e-KTP by late 2012. The e-KTP will be the basis for the e-voting system in 2014," he said.

He said the e-voting system guaranteed the fukfilment of the secrecy principle because there was technologically a separation between voters and election administrators.

From the legal point of view, Jimly Asshiddiqie, a member of the presidential advisory council and a former chairman of the Constitutional Court (MK), said e-voting was legal and usable in Indonesia.

However, new and more detailed regulations were needed especially concerning its standard operation procedures (SOPs), as well as on how to settle election disputes, he said.

"We should not hesitate, if we have the capability, why not. But, we should not forget that there must not be uniformity as not all regions are ready, and so the regulations must make a uniformity," he said.

He suggested that the e-voting system be applied in stages, for instance, first in cities for mayoral elections, and later in districts and provinces.

"And then it could be applied in presidential elections at national level. By 2024, finally it could be applied nation-wide for legislative elections," he said.

Another option was voiced by Bambang Eka Cahya, a member of the Election Supervisory Board, who said in general elections the major problem wouls not be in the e-voting but in the e-counting.

He suggested the voting process be done manually, but the ballot counting be carried out electronically using the e-counting system because the counting process was often a problem from the low local level to the provincial level.

Despite the pros and cons, Bogor city, West Java, has announced that the city will apply rhw e-voting system in its regional head elections in 2014.

"God Willing, by 2014, we will use the e-voting system ," Hermansyah, head of the Bogor city communication and informatics office, said recently.

He said under the e-voting system voters will use touch screens, no longer paper ballots and it will be easier for voters to indicate their choices.

The Democrat Party also plans to use e-voting in the election of its next chairman to be held at the party`s upcoming Second Congress in Padalarang, Bandung District, West Java, May 21-23, 2010.

Didik Mukrianto, the congress organizing committee chairman said e-voting will be used to guarantee a fair and independent election process.

Once the nation decides a system - e-voting or manual - to be used in the next polls, providing ample time for general elections 2014 preparations is a must in order to avoid a similar rather chaotic process like the nation experienced in the 2009 presidential and legislative elections.

(T. F001/A/HAJM/15:40/A014)
(T.F001/A/F001/A/A014) 20-05-2010 17:50:52

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