Thu, 26 Jun 2003

120 seats allocated for independent legislators

Fabiola Desy Unidjaja, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

The General Elections Commission (KPU) has reserved 120 out of 550 seats in the House of Representatives (DPR) for independent candidates in the 2004 election.

The commission's planning bureau head, Suhaedy, said on Tuesday that the seat allotment was possible as the country would apply what was termed an "open proportional system", where people would choose candidates and not political parties as was the case in the past.

"People will no longer select the symbol of a political party, but rather directly elect candidates presented by the parties," Suhaedy said as quoted by Antara on Tuesday.

Indonesia will for the first time hold direct legislative and presidential elections in 2004, when voters will choose individual candidates nominated by political parties.

The legislative election will take place in April, while the presidential election is expected to take place between June and August 2004.

"Those who are disappointed by the performance of the political parties can vote for independent candidates instead of boycotting the election," Suhaedy said.

The prevailing electoral law allows voters to choose candidates other than those nominated by political parties, but the independent candidates must be attached to a political party.

Suhaedy said the seats were reserved to accommodate a possible increase in the number of people refusing to exercise their right to vote due to a lack of confidence in the existing political parties.

Many rallies, especially by students, have called on the public not to vote in the 2004 election as none of the existing political parties were competent to lead the country.

Commission members have been campaigning for people to exercise their voting rights, arguing that boycotting the election was tantamount to supporting the present government.

Public administration expert Noorsyamsa Djumara concurred with Suhaedy on Tuesday, saying that direct elections were designed to ensure that the democratic system would work in this country.

"Direct elections are supposed to bring the people closer to their candidates," Noorsyamsa said.

Suhaedy, however, pointed out the two-stage electoral process in 2004 would require huge amounts of money.

"For the ballot papers alone, we will need about 20 pages for each voter as we have to state the names of the candidates from at least 50 political parties," Suhaedy said.

He further disclosed that in the 1999 election, the total cost of the election was Rp 1.6 trillion (US$195million), while for the coming 2004 elections, the commission would need Rp 1.34 trillion just to provide the ballot papers.

Suhaedy added that for the whole election process from the preparations to the resolution of any post-election disputes, the commission would need around Rp 5 trillion.