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Claims of poll fraud mount after Indonesian election landslide

May 31, 1997

JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) _ Human rights activists today stepped up claims of widespread fraud and manipulation in Indonesia’s tightly controlled political system, which delivered a landslide victory to the ruling party.

A team of election monitors from the Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development accused the military of taking an active role in Thursday’s parliamentary poll and creating ``a atmosphere of fear″ at polling stations.

It and other monitoring teams, along with a minority Muslim party and the United States, have questioned the election’s integrity.

Golkar, the party supported by President Suharto’s 31-year-old government and the military, won almost three-quarters of the vote against two other parties allowed to stand candidates for the largely ceremonial legislature.

Under Indonesian law, military personnel do not have the right to vote, but instead are represented in the 500-member parliament by 75 army appointees.

``We express grave alarm that the peoples of Indonesia should suffer violations of their scared right to vote freely without fear or reprisal,″ the Bangkok-based forum said in a statement.

About 130,000 police and soldiers were deployed throughout Indonesia to maintain order on polling day after a riotous monthlong election campaign left about 300 people dead.

In East Timor, where pre-election attacks killed as many as 22 people, police said today the army has arrested 30 rebels. Insurgents have been fighting for independence in the former Portuguese colony since 1975.

The government has said a strong military presence was needed to maintain order and public safety.

However, the monitoring team’s leader, Evelyn Balais Serrano, said armed soldiers did more than that.

``They were in the booths and were involved in the process of reading ballots,″ she said.

The Asian Forum team reiterated earlier allegations by similar groups that some voters had cast multiple ballots and that vote counting had not been done openly.

The Muslim-orientated United Development Party has alleged that some voters were paid to vote for Golkar and that some party officials had been barred from watching ballots being counted at polling stations.

Allegations of vote rigging triggered riots in several towns in East Java and nearby Madura island. Stone throwing mobs burned houses and cars. Government officials later ordered that a new vote be held there.

In Washington on Friday, the U.S. State Department called on Indonesian authorities to investigate reported election abuses.

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