Mon, 10 Feb 2003

House invites politicians to discuss electoral bill

Kurniawan Hari, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

The prolonged debate over the electoral bill has prompted the House of Representatives committee discussing the bill to invite leaders of political parties to consult over the contentious articles.

The prolonged debate over the bill has caused a delay in the endorsement of the long-awaited bill.

"We will likely consult with political party leaders to discuss the unsettled articles," committee member Sofwan Chudorie told The Jakarta Post on Sunday.

People's Consultative Assembly Speaker Amien Rais, who chairs the country's fifth largest political party, the National Mandate Party (PAN), said over the weekend the slow deliberation of the electoral bill was the result of backroom dealing by legislators.

Sofwan said the consultation with the political party leaders would possibly take place on Wednesday.

Legislators were to have finished deliberating the bill last November, but this deadline got pushed further and further back as different factions on the committee wrangled over their own political interests.

Chozin Chumaidy, the deputy chairman of the committee, said the legislators would again delay the endorsement of the bill until Feb. 18.

Sofwan said the legislators had failed to reach a consensus on a number of crucial articles despite a recent series of meetings at the Horizon Hotel in North Jakarta.

"We will bring the results of the meetings to a full meeting of the House," Sofwan said.

The contentious articles include those concerning electoral systems, the electoral threshold and the institution that should be in charge of general elections.

The rules on the electoral threshold stipulate that political parties that took part in the 1999 elections and won less than 2 percent of the seats in the House are not allowed to participate in the 2004 elections.

This would force parties that do not meet the electoral threshold to merge and form a new party in order to contest the next elections.