Wed, 31 Mar 1999

KPU firm with its decision on poll campaigns

JAKARTA (JP): The General Elections Commission (KPU) as of Tuesday was standing firm on its Code of Conduct barring parties from involving ministers in campaigns, while the government suggested a meeting between the commission and the President to resolve the stalemate.

"The President or the minister of home affairs should hold talks with the commission to find a middle path on this matter. Let's discuss it in a clear and calm manner," Minister of Justice Muladi said.

Commission deputy chairman Harun Alrasid said the commission did not discuss the Supreme Court's legal opinion on the issue of whether ministers could be involved in campaigns during its plenary session on Tuesday because the government had not sent the commission a copy of the opinion.

"We know about the legal opinion from newspapers and the television," he said.

Commission member Jacob Tobing of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI Perjuangan) said the fact that the Supreme Court's legal opinion was not discussed meant "the commission remained firm in its decision".

The Supreme Court on Monday issued a legal opinion on the matter at the request of acting Minister of Home Affairs Feisal Tanjung.

The opinion states the commission, while independent, answers to the President, who is in charge of the election according to a decree of the People's Consultative Assembly.

The court said the KPU had no right to rule on the actions and roles of ministers, who are the President's assistants.

Harun, also a constitutional law expert, said the commission did not have to consider the court's legal opinion because it was not binding.

Harun also said the Supreme Court violated procedures because such a legal opinion must be requested by the President. Muladi refuted Harun's comments.

Satya Arinanto, a constitutional law expert at the University of Indonesia, called on Golkar and the government to comply with the elections commission's ruling.

He deplored the Supreme Court's legal opinion for being issued after the elections commission already had issued its Code of Conduct on campaigns.

"The court's legal opinion is no longer relevant and the elections commission does not have to take it into consideration because its decision has been made."

Mochtar Masoed, a political scientist at Gadjah Mada University in Yogyakarta, hailed the elections commission's Code of Conduct.

"KPU had the authority to make a code of ethics for the election campaign."

Officials' abuse of power in past campaigns was one factor which led to the decision to bar parties from recruiting all government officials, military members and civil servants in the campaign, he said.

However, scholars also have criticized the KPU for failing to consult with the President before issuing its Code of Conduct.

KPU chairman Rudini said the commission was authorized to issue rulings on the election, including the one barring parties from recruiting government officials in the campaign.

The commission, however, also has been criticized for "double standards" because it ruled that commission members could campaign and run for seats in the legislature. The court's legal opinion barred KPU members from doing either.

Minister/State Secretary Akbar Tandjung has said, with the President's permission, he would take an unpaid leave from his ministerial post to campaign for Golkar.

Akbar, also the chairman of Golkar, said on Tuesday he was considering replacing Golkar's representative on the elections commission, Mahadi Sinambela, to allow Mahadi to campaign for Golkar and run for a seat in the legislature.

Meanwhile, the Central Java provincial chapter of the United Development Party (PPP) urged party chairman State Minister of Investment Hamzah Haz and party deputy State Minister of Food and Horticulture A.M. Saefuddin, to leave their ministerial posts so they would be able to campaign for PPP. (rms/edt/prb/har)