Tue, 06 Aug 2002

Fate of crucial bills depends on amendment process

Ahmad Junaidi, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

The fate of several crucial bills, including political bills, that will determine whether or not the reform movement will continue, is hanging in the balance pending the outcome of the constitutional amendments being discussed at the Annual Session of the People's Consultative Assembly (MPR).

Two of the bills considered as the most important bills, one on general elections and another on political parties, are scheduled for endorsement in November this year.

The bill on general elections also covers a much discussed item, namely direct presidential elections. A deadlock in the amendment process regarding Article 6 on presidential elections, for example, will result in the next general election, scheduled for 2004, being postponed.

According to Article 6 of the 1945 Constitution, the president and vice president are elected by the MPR. The amended article (Article 6A in the third phase of the amendment) states, among other things, that the president and vice president are elected in a direct election by the people.

However, if the fourth amendment is endorsed, the election of members of the House of Representatives (DPR) and the Regional Representatives Council (DPD) scheduled for 2003 and the direct presidential elections in 2004 could be conducted.

The bill on general elections, which will replace the current Law No. 3/1999, is also expected to pave way for the establishment of an independent General Elections Commission (KPU).

Although the current KPU comprises several independent members, it is not considered independent due to the fact that its secretary-general and vice secretary-general are under the Ministry of Home Affairs, who proposes the secretary-general and vice secretary-general. Both are appointed by the President, rousing suspicion of possible government interference in the election process.

Several KPU members, mostly university lecturers, had earlier threatened to quit in protest of a requirement in the bill, which states that KPU members should be held responsible for the commission's budget which is decided and managed by the secretary-general.

The 1999 general election cost Rp 1.5 trillion (US166 million). KPU has proposed a Rp 3 trillion budget for the next general election.

KPU members also warned that if the election bill could not be passed in November, they would not be able to make any proper preparations for the next general election, including preparing independent election commissions across the country.

Besides the election bill, the other most important bill which should be passed in November is the bill on political parties which will replace Law No. 2/1999. If passed, the bill include the screening of political parties eligible for participation in general elections and will automatically reduce the number of political parties, from the over 200 political parties currently registered with the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights.

The bill requires that a party has branches in at least two- thirds of the country's 30 provinces, and in two-thirds of the number of regencies or cities in one province.

It also stipulates that election participants have at least 1,000 members in each of its branches.

Under the current law, political parties only need branches in half the number of provinces and half the number of regencies or cities in one province.

Many political analysts have predicted that the next general election will be contested by only 10 parties, including the current parties at the House of Representatives that have secured at least 2 percent of the House's 500 seats.