Fri, 11 Apr 2003

2004 elections not expected to produce any new leaders

Arya Abhiseka, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Analysts warned on Thursday that an alternative choice of leaders would unlikely emerge from the 2004 general election because political parties have offered no new political agenda and no room for new political players.

"The fact that we still have the same political players as we did during the New Order regime to contend the upcoming presidential election, makes it clear that political parties' agenda still have not shifted from the Soeharto era.

"Even if parties form coalitions to win the general election, it will only be for a short period of time without any adjustment to their political perception, vision and mission," said Syamsudin Haris of the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI).

The political leaders who are expected to be nominated by the major political parties, such as incumbent President Megawati Soekarnoputri, House Speaker Akbar Tandjung, People's Consultative Assembly (MPR) Chairman Amien Rais, Vice President Hamzah Haz and Coordinating Minister for Political and Security Affairs Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, were all old players.

Separately, Bachtiar Effendi, a political analyst from the Jakarta Islamic Teaching Institute, was of the same opinion and added that the candidacy restriction, which requires parties to win at least 20 percent of legislative seats to be eligible to contest the presidential election, would likely prevent new leaders from emerging in 2004.

The restriction was not conducive to the spirit of democracy, he said.

"As a result, quality leaders would not emerge because the available options are limited, while those who may be qualified to lead the nation are excluded from the options," he said.

He also said that the current mechanism, in which possible presidential candidates opted to refrain from being publicly announced as presidential candidates, could also keep the public from becoming interested in politics.

"Presidential candidates must announce themselves and show that they accept their nomination with pride and honor.

"Show some respect and seriousness to the public, and make them believe that they will choose the right person to lead the nation. Then, the public will not be indifferent toward politics and potential leaders can be groomed from the grassroots," he said.

Hamid Awaluddin of the General Elections Commission (KPU) admitted that the next elections might not accommodate the people's aspirations, as the direct electoral system would be introduced for the first time next year.

"We proposed earlier that we should try out the direct election concept in the regional elections, but so far, no regents nor governors have been directly elected by the people," he said.

The KPU has planned the two-phased presidential election for June and August 2004, while they await the deliberation of the presidential election bill by the House of Representatives (DPR). The general election is set for April 5, 2004.

More than 130 million people are expected to participate in Indonesia's first direct elections.