Thu, 10 Jul 2003

House clears last hurdle to next year's elections

Kurniawan Hari, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

The House of Representatives cleared on Wednesday the last hurdle to next year's elections by endorsing a bill on the status and composition of legislative bodies.

With the passage of the bill, the country has all four of the political laws necessary to organize legislative and presidential elections next year.

The passage of the bill on the composition of legislative bodies also makes reality the bicameral system set out by the amended 1945 Constitution.

The system outlined in the bill, however, is not completely bicameral, as the bill does not give equal power to the two legislative bodies -- the House and the Regional Representatives Council (DPD).

Yahya Zaini, chairman of the House committee that deliberated the bill, said the DPD was designed to improve the checks and balances of the legislature, but the Constitution gave limited authority to the council.

"We know the people want to see a greater role for the DPD, but we cannot exceed the stipulations in the Constitution," Yahya said during a plenary session here on Wednesday.

Article 22 (D) of the Constitution states that the DPD can draft, deliberate and supervise the implementation of bills related to regional autonomy.

However, Article 42 (3) of the bill on the composition of legislative bodies does not accord those rights to the DPD, only saying the council can consult with the House on bills. So only the government and the House will have the right to draft and deliberate bills.

The DPD can advise the House about the state budget and bills on taxation, education and religion. However, any input from the council must be conveyed to the House before it begins to deliberate the bills with the government.

The DPD also can provide input to the House on the selection of the leaders of the Supreme Audit Agency.

The new bill also sets out certain requirements and obligations legislators must meet.

According to the bill, all legislators, be they members of the DPR, the DPD or regional legislative councils (DPRD), are obliged to accommodate and struggle for the aspirations of the people.

All members of the DPR, DPD and DPRD are prohibited from holding second jobs as (1) state officials; (2) justices of the court; (3) civil servants, military/police officers, employees at state enterprises (BUMN), or at other institutions whose activities are financed by the state budget.

Legislators also are not allowed to hold jobs in private schools or to work as accountants, consultants, advocates, doctors and other occupations whose activities are related to the duties of legislators.

Minister of Home Affairs Hari Sabarno said the endorsement of the bill would further encourage the development of a modern political system in the country.

Key Articles of the Bill

Article 7: The People's Consultative Assembly (MPR) will be led by one spokesperson and three deputies.

Article 11: The MPR selects the president and vice president from candidates nominated by the parties that ranked first and second in the last elections, should the duties of the incumbents be terminated. The MPR decides on any impeachment proposed by the DPR after hearing a ruling from the Constitutional Court.

Article 17: The DPR will have 550 members

Article 23: DPR leaders convicted of a crime will not be allowed to preside over meetings or act as spokesperson.

Article 30: DPR has the authority to summon state officials, executives of institutions, and ordinary citizens for questioning.

Article 32: The DPD will be composed of four members from each province.

Article 85: DPR members can be replaced in the case of death, resignation, or recall by their party.

Article 103: Legislators can be prosecuted for leaking state secrets. Legislators cannot be replaced for their statements or opinions.