Wed, 29 Mar 2000

Direct presidential election idea needs time

SURABAYA (JP): Direct election for president could be implemented in 2009, but the people must first learn to comprehend the new system, a scholar says.

Ramlan Surbakti of the Surabaya-based Airlangga University said that establishing solid institutions to prepare the direct system would be time consuming.

President Abdurrahman Wahid stated when opening the first national congress of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI Perjuangan) in Semarang on Monday that the government would support direct elections in 2004.

According to Ramlan, the Indonesian people have no experience in direct election at the presidential level. "The direct election in 2004 would only bring severe culture shock to the people. The question is, are the people ready to accept the defeat of their candidates?"

Even though the people have had experience in direct elections at village and regency levels, the direct election of a president would be a great leap which could cause many problems.

He cited that many supporters of the defeated candidates in the previous elections at the village and regency levels were enraged and could not accept the defeats.

Ramlan, who is also head of the Center for Autonomy Study at the State Ministry for Regional Autonomy Office, said that to ease the process the direct system would begin with the direct election of people's representatives in the 2004 elections. "In the 2004 elections the people will learn how to vote for a president directly."

He also said that the direct system needed a strong and solid parliament. "Frankly speaking, we (Indonesia) historically and culturally have never possessed a strong parliament."

In a related development, Rubiyanto Misman, rector of the Jenderal Soedirman University, shared his opinion on Tuesday that the people were not yet ready for a presidential direct election.

"However, the President's statement was positive, paving the way for it to eventually become a reality," Rubiyanto told reporters in Purwokerto.

"The cult of the individual is still dominant in our political culture," he said, citing the Indonesian Democratic of Struggle (PDI Perjuangan) which won the 1999 General Election because of its supporters' emotional ties with a figure and not because of its democratic principles," he said.

For politically advanced countries like the United States, direct election for the president would be okay. "Americans have no cult of the individual."

"If we force ourselves to apply the direct election system while the people are not ready, there will be chaos," he said. (nur/45/sur)