Ni Komang Erviani, , The Jakarta Post, , Denpasar | Wed, 01/07/2009 11:19 AM | Bali
Election officials in Denpasar are scrambling for solutions to encourage voter turnout for the April 9 election, which coincides with a major Hindu ritual.
On April 9, Balinese Hindus will organize the Panca Wali Krama, a large, island-wide sacrificial ritual. The main ritual will be held at Besakih Mother Temple, the largest Hindu temple in Bali.
Panca Wali Krama is celebrated every 10 years.
Officials are keeping their expectations low for voter turnout, which some fear could hit an all time low, but discussions are ongoing as to how they can encourage voting without inconveniencing adherents.
I Ketut Sukawati Lanang Perbawa, head of the Bali General Elections Commission (KPUD), said officials were considering erecting a polling station at Pura Besakih temple, which is located on the slopes of Mt. Agung in Karangasem regency.
However, the move would be bound to attract criticism as Balinese have been traditionally opposed to opening their temples to nonreligious activities.
Besakih, which comprises 19 major temples and dozens of smaller ones, is a massively sprawling complex, and it would be difficult for the KPUD to redirect all adherents to one location on the day.
Perbawa said that despite the potential for problems, erecting a polling station at the temple was the only credible solution as such a large number of eligible voters would be on the scene that day.
“If we fail to build a voting booth there, then the turn-out could be amazingly low,” he said.
However, he said it would be difficult for election supervisors to remain alert to possible vote-rigging given that the polling station would receive more than the maximum number of voters stipulated under elections rules.
“To make this work, we would have to really work extra hard to supervise the counting during the voting process,” he said, adding that there were no regulations forbidding a polling station from being erected at a temple.
“Still, we’ll ask the General Elections Commission if that is possible,” Perbawa said Tuesday.
Bali Governor Made Mangku Pastika said he was behind the move to erect the poll station at the temple, but added he was not sure whether the station should be erected inside or just outside of the Besakih complex.
He said he had asked the Bali KPUD to pay serious attention to the threat of a low voter turnout out on April 9.
“I hope there will be an extra voting booth dedicated to those who will be praying at Besakih,” he said.
A total of 4,924 legislative candidates from 36 political parties will contest the coming elections and up to 30 candidates will vie for seats at the Regional Representative Council. Bali is home to more than 2 million eligible voters.
The elections campaign season runs from March 16 to April 5.