Mon, 12 May 2003

Call for limit on political parties meets opposition

Kurniawan Hari, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Political analysts lambasted the alumni of the National Resilience Institute (Lemhannas) who have called for a limit on the number of political parties to contend the 2004 general election, saying that the idea was conservative and undemocratic.

The Lemhannas alumni have recently raised the idea with House of Representatives leaders on the grounds that it was needed to create political stability as well as to spur economic growth.

"I think the idea is undemocratic and weird. It is conservative," Daniel Sparingga of the Surabaya-based Airlangga University (UNAIR) told The Jakarta Post on Sunday.

He said that political stability could not be pursued simply by limiting the number of political parties.

Hadar N. Gumay of the Center for Electoral Reform (CETRO) concurred and said that such a limitation would hamper the development of democracy in the nation.

He said that the limit on new political parties would give further opportunity to old parties to regain power. "It is a threat. Because it will give the opportunity to old powers to return," Hadar told the Post.

Spokesman for Lemhannas alumni Agum Gumelar said that a similar recommendation would be presented to President Megawati Soekarnoputri.

Besides reducing the number of political parties, the Lemhannas alumni also called for a reduction in the number of factions in the legislature to ensure quick and effective decision making.

To date, over 250 political parties have registered with the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights to contend the general election.

Both Daniel and Hadar emphasized that the increasing number of political parties was the result of the reform movement and that blaming the increase of political parties was ridiculous.

Hadar said that the era of reform must be seen as a transitional period, which of course takes a long time.

"The huge number of political parties registered with the government cannot be used to justify limiting contenders," Hadar said, adding that all should let the people select the number of political parties through the general election.

Both Hadar and Daniel agreed that the current laws on political parties and elections had posed strict legal and administrative requirements on politicians to set up political parties.

According to the law, a political party is required to have chapters in 50 percent of both provinces and regencies and this must be shown in official documents before its existence is accepted by the government.

Daniel predicted that the current political parties would merge naturally in the next 10 to 20 years to strengthen themselves.

Those political parties, he said, would be divided into groups depending on their political platform and ideology. "It is not necessary to make such a limitation but let time and nature select them and encourage them to merge to form between five and seven major parties some time in the distant future."