Expert praises democratic
progress but warns of loopholes

Indonesia is continuing to build on its democratic reform accomplished over the past 12 years despite the fact that other countries like Thailand and Pakistan are experiencing severe declines of their democracy, an observer says.

Adam Schmidt of International Foundation for Electoral Systems cited the 38 certified political parties, the over 12,000 legislative candidates, and the 104,009,785 voters that took part in the 2009 general election as proof of impressive progress.

“The number of voters, indeed, decreased from the 2004 general election, but it was still the second largest worldwide,” he said during a discussion at Santika Hotel in Jakarta on Wednesday.

The discussion was held to launch a new book titled Problems of Democratization in Indonesia: Elections, Institutions and Society edited by Edward Aspinall and Marcus Mietzner, published by Singapore's Institute of Southeast Asian Studies.

However, Schimdt, who wrote a chapter on the 2009 elections, cautioned that numbers did not always reflect quality, because the country's electoral system had some loopholes.

“The public has described the 2009 general election as the worst in the reform era,” Schmidt said.

He said that among the indications of electoral system dysfunction were the rise in the number of invalid to 14.38 percent in the 2009 election from 8.8 percent in the previous election, problematic voter registration and unclear institutional relations among the General Election Commission, the Election Supervisory Commission and the Constitutional Court. (rdf)

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