Fri, 19 Dec 2003

Increase in House seats unlikely

Kurniawan Hari, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

A group of legislators gave up in their effort to amend the election law that would enable an increase in the number of House of Representatives (DPR) seats from 550 to 556 due to time constraints.

The 28 lawmakers, who represent various factions, had expected the revision of Law No.12/2003 could be made before the House goes on recess this Saturday.

"I don't think we will make it because there is no time left," said Ferry Mursyidan Baldan, one of the legislators proposing the revision, on Thursday.

Ferry of the Golkar Party faction denied allegations that the proposal was meant to benefit his party.

A review was proposed on Article 47 on the number of House seats and the explanatory addendum to Article 48, paragraph 1 (b) on allocation of House seats for the provinces of Maluku, North Sulawesi and Papua.

Protests from the provinces were directed at the General Elections Commission (KPU) over what they called an unfair allocation of House seats, because based on the existing law they would have to share the seat allocation with provinces that had already separated from them: West Irian Jaya, North Maluku and Gorontalo respectively.

KPU required that any revisions made had to be done by Dec. 22, otherwise it would affect the KPU's preparations for the elections.

KPU has identified the period between Dec. 22 and Dec. 29 as the time for political parties to submit the names of their legislative candidates. The commission began on Dec. 9 the distribution of registration forms for legislative candidates.

Lukman Hakim Saifuddin of the United Development Party (PPP) faction concurred with Ferry, saying there was not enough time to make the revisions.

However, he disagreed in principle with the proposed changes, arguing that it could affect other issues.

"There is no guarantee that the legislators will only revise the number of the House seats. I am afraid the legislators will also try to amend other things," he said.

Lukman added that if legislators also started tampering with other items in the law, it would throw off the schedule for the elections. The nation will go to the polls on April 5 for the legislative election and the first round of the direct presidential election will be on July 5. The second round of the presidential election, if necessary, will be on Sept. 20.

To make the revisions, the House would have needed the thoughts of the executive branch of government and this was deemed to be far too time consuming.