Sat, 27 Mar 1999

KPU considers compromise on campaigning rule

JAKARTA (JP): The General Elections Commission (KPU) is considering exempting Cabinet ministers who chair political parties from its ban on state officials' campaigning for the June 7 polls, KPU chairman Rudini said on Friday.

It would be a face-saving option in the stalemate between KPU and the government, which insists the commission has no authority to bar Cabinet ministers from electioneering.

President B.J. Habibie referred to the Supreme Court on Thursday for a ruling on the issue. He also reportedly met Rudini and Chief Justice Sarwata for a meeting at his residence later in the day.

KPU is scheduled to announce modifications to its campaigning rules on Monday. It is likely to impose a similar ban on its own members.

"The ministers concerned may temporarily be nonactive in the government, and there should be a special dispensation for them (to campaign for their respective parties)," Rudini said.

He was referring to Minister/State Secretary Akbar Tandjung of the Golkar Party and Minister of Investment Hamzah Haz of the United Development Party.

He insisted the ban should apply to all other state officials. Habibie has barred five of 36 Cabinet ministers from serving their party interests in the elections. Most of the ministers are Golkar loyalists.

"The problem actually lies with KPU's commitment to facilitate a free and fair general election," said Rudini, a retired general and former minister of home affairs.

"We have to clear all things that could adversely affect the fairness of the election, particularly due to the traumatic experience stemming from state officials' involvement in the campaigning."

Fears of malfeasance stem from past campaigns when officials -- ranging from members of the Supreme Advisory Council and Supreme Audit Agency to those in lower administrative levels -- blatantly abused state facilities for Golkar's interests, Rudini said.

He added that KPU would honor the Supreme Court's decision, but hoped it would rule in its favor.

"The Supreme Court is to study KPU's authority in this matter... and that's fine with us. We ban the political parties, not the ministers. So this is not breaching our authority."

On Monday the commission will also rule on several other crucial matters, including closed-door rallies and a proposed ban on mass rallies.

"It is likely the mass rallies will be limited to a maximum of 10,000 people and held indoors, while street rallies should be avoided as much as possible," Rudini said.

Indoor campaigning will enhance communication between campaigners and their supporters, he added.

Rudini also disclosed there were only five printing companies in the country with capacity for eight-color simultaneous printing for ballot sheets.

"Each of the five has capacity for only 30 million ballots, thus making a total of 150 million," he said.

For the general election, 400 million ballots will be needed for the three electoral levels, or roughly 133 million each for the central, provincial and district levels.

"The remaining 250 million ballots will be produced by other printers possessing capacity for six-color simultaneous printing, with the other two colors to be added later," Rudini said. (edt)