Indonesia election: Ballot paper delays hit voting in Batam

Officials counting ballot papers at a polling station in Bendungan Hilir, Central Jakarta, on April 17, 2019.
Officials counting ballot papers at a polling station in Bendungan Hilir, Central Jakarta, on April 17, 2019. ST PHOTO: ARIFFIN JAMAR

About 500 polling stations in Batam, or a sixth of the total, saw hours of delays in getting ballot papers due to a logistical problem yesterday.

The affected polling stations were located in five of the 12 districts in Batam. There were a total of 2,970 polling stations across Batam Island, an hour's ferry ride from Singapore.

"The loading of ballot papers into distribution trucks went very slowly in Batam because the storage building has only one door. The distribution process could start only a day before the polls," Mr Syahrul Huda, head of Indonesia's General Elections Commission (KPU) in Batam, told reporters.

Affected polling stations received ballot papers only at 10.30am while, by regulation, polling stations must end voting and start counting at 1pm local time. Scores of voters were denied their right to vote.

Elsewhere, polling at a station in Selayang district, in the North Sumatra provincial capital of Medan, started more than an hour later than the stipulated 8am as officials were slow to set up the station.

"I am disappointed with this delay," said taxi driver Umbara, who showed up at 6.30am ra-ring to vote and get on with his day. "I wanted to vote and quickly start my shift."

In North Sumatra's Nias Island, polling stations in four of the nine districts never received ballot papers, prompting a postponement of the vote to an undetermined date. Nias-based election commissioner Benget Silitonga said the agency is investigating the cause of the delay.


Mr Ali Nurdin, a political analyst at Mathla'ul Anwar University, said the magnitude of these delays is still within reasonable limits, considering the vast geographical challenge in the world's largest archipelagic country with three time zones.

More than 800,000 polling stations opened yesterday ac-ross the archipelago spanning 5,100km, from its eastern tip in Papua province to its western tip in Aceh.

"This is something that Malaysia, Singapore or the Philippines wouldn't face," Mr Ali told The Straits Times.

"So far, we haven't seen any indication that this is systemic. As long as KPU seriously deals with this, it would not affect the elections in general," he added.

• Additional reporting from Adiguna in Medan (North Sumatra), and F. Pangestu in Batam (Riau Islands)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 18, 2019, with the headline 'Ballot paper delays hit voting in Batam'. Print Edition | Subscribe