Wed, 12 Mar 2003

Govt told to speed up party vetting

Arya Abhiseka and Fabiola Desy Unidjaya, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

The General Elections Commission (KPU) urged the government on Tuesday to speed up the ongoing verification of new political parties to allow it to hold the general election and presidential election ahead of schedule.

Nazaruddin Sjamsuddin, the chairman of the KPU, said the commission would be unable to complete its other tasks if it did not know the number of political parties contesting the elections.

He said the KPU could not determine the number of parties eligible for the elections because the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights had yet to finish with the verification of more than 200 political parties registered with the ministry.

"There is a lot of work to be done in fulfilling our own commitment to organize the elections ahead of schedule," he said.

Nazaruddin said that besides conducting voter registration on April 1, the commission needed to verify the political parties to make sure of the number of parties contesting the elections. He said it could not start printing ballots or making ballot boxes or polling booths unless it knew the number of candidates.

"We hope that the government will update us periodically on the verified parties instead of just giving us a large amount of data at the last minute. This would help the KPU examine whether the parties meet the legal requirements to contest the elections," he said.

According to the newly endorsed elections bill, some 237 parties must first go through two tests before they are declared eligible for the election.

The first phase is conducted by the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights while the second phase is conducted by the KPU. The first test is aimed at checking whether the parties meet the legal requirements to exist, while the second is aimed at checking if they have met all the legal requirements for contesting the election.

Separately, Wicipto Setiadi, the deputy chairman of the government's verification team, said that his team would check the new political parties in four groups, with the last group expected to be finished in September.

"If the KPU hurries us, all we can do is urge parties to register as soon as they can with the ministry. They hold the key in this situation," he said.

He added that so far only 18 parties were registered at the ministry, and none of them had passed the eligibility tests. The deadline for parties to register is September 27 of this year.

"There are still parties that use logos and attributes that are similar to others. It is mandatory that several of those parties alternate their logos and attributes or else they'll face disqualification. The alteration process takes time," he said.

The KPU has vowed to hold the elections in April 2004, two months ahead of schedule, in order to give more chances for it to prepare the presidential election by June so that a new president and vice president can be sworn in in October.

Meanwhile, President Megawati Soekarnoputri warned the KPU to be independent in preparing the country's first ever direct presidential election.

Speaking during a closed door meeting on Tuesday with her party, the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI Perjuangan), Megawati underlined that the KPU held a pivotal role in ensuring the success of the elections.

"The KPU should just work and be independent in preparing the elections," Megawati was quoted as saying by the party's treasurer, Noviantika Nasution, on Tuesday.

"The members of the KPU should not take on the roles of observers, researchers or politicians, because people are tired of hearing those comments," she said.