Wed, 16 Apr 2003

'All parties must stand equal chance'

Kurniawan Hari, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

More politicians and observers have demanded that all political parties, be they big or small, be afforded equal chances of nominating their own presidential and vice presidential candidates.

Therefore, the argue, the restrictions limiting the size of the presidential election field must be dropped.

Article 5 (4) of the presidential elections bill allows only political parties or coalitions that garnered 20 percent of the seats in the House of Representatives (DPR) to nominate a presidential candidate.

"The limitation will only facilitate the big parties in maintaining their positions. There will be no new faces contesting the presidential election," said Muslim cleric Solahuddin Wahid of Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) at a discussion here on Tuesday.

Indonesia is scheduled to hold its first ever direct presidential election between June and August 2004.

In the last election in 1999, only the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI Perjuangan) and Golkar won more than 20 percent of the vote.

Sulastomo, coordinator of the Straight Path Movement, concurred with Solahuddin, saying that such a restriction would prevent figures from new parties from contesting the election.

All factions in the House, except the PDI Perjuangan, Golkar, and the military/police factions have rejected the restriction. They constitute more than half of the votes in the House.

Minister of Home Affairs Hari Sabarno said earlier that the limitation was designed to ensure that presidential candidates were nominated by big parties with enough support as reflected by the number of seats they held in the House.

According to Hari, this scheme would create an effective government in which the president could count on significant support from the House.

This explanation has been rejected by many politicians.

The chairpersons of three political parties, the New Indonesia Alliance Party (PIB), the Banteng Kemerdekaan Nationalist Party (PNBK), and the National Democratic Party (PDK), issued a joint statement on Tuesday rejecting the limitation.

Sjahrir of the PIB, Eros Djarot of the PNBK, and Ryaas Rasyid of the PDK said that the restriction was unconstitutional and was not in line with the principles underlaying the presidential system.

Article 6 A (2) of the Constitution states that presidential and vice presidential candidates are nominated by political parties or coalitions prior to the elections.

There is no stipulation that restricts smaller parties from nominating presidential candidates.

They said the limitation was simply a ploy by the powerholders to retain power. The 1945 Constitution does not make any connection between presidential candidature and the number of seats a political party gains in the general election.

Separately, Amien Rais, the chairman of the National Mandate Party (PAN), the country's fifth largest party, said on Tuesday that the presidential elections must not be linked to the election of members of the legislature.

He said that if the a presidential candidature was based on the number of seats in the legislature, then Indonesia would have a parliamentary system.

He stressed that the country had adopted the presidential system.

Amien, who is also the speaker of the People's Consultative Assembly (MPR), said the freedom of the people to elect their president would be restricted should the limitation be endorsed.

"Please give the people the freedom to elect the candidate of their choice without restriction," Amien said.

Moreover, Amien suggested that the presidential and vice presidential candidates nominated by political parties or coalitions should be announced before the legislative elections.

Coalitions would simply be based on short-term interests should the candidates be announced after the legislative elections, he said.