Thu, 19 Jun 2003

Candidates to be above the law during campaigns

Kurniawan Hari, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Presidential candidates and their running mates might not be held accountable for any violations official campaign regulations that may occur during campaign periods, a House of Representatives special committee has agreed.

House legislators deliberating on the presidential election bill proposed that any offense should be blamed on campaign organizers.

Legislator Agun Gunandjar Sudarsa of The Golkar Party said on Wednesday that the stipulation was designed to exempt the presidential and vice presidential candidates from legal action resulting from administrative violations, such as campaigning during unscheduled days.

"This stipulation will make the presidential and vice presidential candidates immune from the impact of administrative offenses," Agun told the press here.

He added that presidential candidates and their running mates could still be charged with violations of any criminal issues, particularly bribery, vote buying or election fraud.

The campaign regulations will be decided upon in greater detail by the General Elections Commission (KPU). The main principle stipulates that those involved in the campaign process must maintain public order and security, stick to designated schedules for campaigning and conduct themselves in a manner befitting of a president or vice president.

Apart from that agreement, legislators remain undecided on the most contentious issues.

The tough issues are the requirements for presidential candidates such as the 20 percent electoral threshold for political parties who are allowed to nominate presidential candidate, and the schedule of elections -- whether the elections of legislators and president will be held simultaneously or not.

Legislators reached the decision after a series of meetings at the House building, the Horison Hotel in North Jakarta and at the Santika Hotel in Central Jakarta.

Previously, the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI Perjuangan) and the United Development Party (PPP) factions proposed that each pair of presidential and vice presidential candidates must be held responsible for their own campaigns.

However, after a series of negotiations and revisions to the original draft, PDI Perjuangan and PPP factions accepted the clause.

Article 16 of the bill drafted by the home ministry originally states that presidential and vice presidential candidates will be held accountable for campaign violations.

After a series of negotiations, the article was changed to: candidate pairs will not be held accountable for violating the technicalities, they will be the responsibility of the campaign organizers.

According to Agun, the campaign organizers would come from political parties and staff experts.

Barlianta Harahap, chairman of PPP faction who also participated in the negotiation, added that campaign organizers would consist of political party figures and nonpartisan figures.

The politicians would deal with the contents of the presidential campaign while the nonpartisan figures would prepare all administrative tasks, including schedules, locations and equipment/facilities used.

"We may appoint media experts or professional campaigners to make the program a success," he told The Jakarta Post.

Barlianta suggested that presidential candidates and their running mates should publicly reveal their positions on all issues.

He added that if the presidential and vice presidential candidates rely too much on just their campaign organizers, it would stifle communication with would-be constituents.