The opening round in Indonesia's first direct political elections gets formally underway on March 11, 2004, the date from which the 24 parties vying for popular support are legally permitted to begin public campaign activities.
In an effort to encourage national unity and preserve the peaceful atmosphere of Bali, the major parties in Bali have agreed to participate in a combined horse carriage parade to mark the commencement of the campaigning on Thursday, March 11. On that day, a large contingent of carriages or dokar - three for each of the competing political parties and additional dokar for all the candidates seeking election to the Local Parliament (DPD), will form a parade through Denpasar's Renon administrative district to mark the official start of campaign activities.
A Pause for Nyepi
In addition to agreeing to join in the mass parade all the political parties in Bali have also committed to call a four-day truce to campaigning in deference to the observances of the Hindu New Year - Nyepi on March 21. On Thursday, March 18, campaigning in Bali will officially pause to allow the celebration of Melasti, a program of ritual prayers and ceremonies on local beaches. Campaign participants have also agreed to cease their activities again for three days - starting from Saturday, March 20, through Monday, March 22, to accommodate strict observance of Bali's official day of quiet on March 21, 2004.
Campaigning in the first round of electioneering will end on April 4 with all the diverse parties joining together for a final three day of joint campaigning from Thursday, April 1 until the formal end of any electoral promotion the following Sunday before the parliamentary elections set for April 5, 2004.
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