Fri, 11 Jul 2003

From: Jawawa

Cetro calls on transparency on districts

Moch. N. Kurniawan, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

The Centre for Electoral Reform (Cetro) has called on the General Elections Commission (KPU) to uphold transparency and allow the public and political parties to examine the drawing up of district boundaries for next year's general elections to avoid any parties from being prejudiced.

Smita Notosusanto, CETRO executive director, said a public assessment on districting was necessary as the electoral law had left loopholes regarding the districting process.

According to Smita, the problems on districting arise from the fact that Election Law No. 12/2003 requires one seat for a maximum of 425,000 people in densely populated districts and a minimum of 325,000 people in less densely populated districts.

But the law also requires that a district should not have less seats than it had in the 1999 election, while a new province should have at least three seats.

This means, for example, that North Sulawesi would still get seven seats, as it had in 1999, although the province has since been divided into two provinces: North Sulawesi and Gorontalo, she said.

"With those contradictory articles, the voters in some provinces will be overrepresented," she said.'

According to Smita, the elections law had lessened respect for the principle of one person one vote one value.

She also said that with such loopholes, the districting process could become a tool that some political parties could use to their advantage if districting was not conducted by an independent institution.

"If districting is not carried out fairly, it will prejudice particular groups of people, such as minority groups," she said.

Smita, along with Abdillah Toha of the National Mandate Party (PAN), Pramono Anung of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI Perjuangan), and Khofifah Indar Parawansa of the National Awakening Party (PKB), was speaking during a seminar on districting.

Under the elections law, districting will be carried out by the General Elections Commission.

Abdillah concurred with Smita, stressing that a province that was divided into two must be regarded as a new province to avoid overrepresentation.

Smita went on to say that districting should respect the principle of one person one vote in so far as possible.

Administrative boundaries should also be taken into consideration in the districting process, she said.

District boundaries had to consider natural borders and geographical conditions, such as the presence of mountains, rivers, transportation routes and telecommunications networks.

Meanwhile, Pramono hailed Cetro's criticism of the elections law, saying that presently all sides had to closely monitor the districting process engaged in by the election commission.

"It is not possible to amend the elections law as it will disrupt the preparations for the 2004 elections," he said.

Pramono gave assurances that his party would not attempt to influence the election commission in the districting process. "We all just need clear rules of the game for the elections."