Thu, 27 May 2004

KPU, Panwaslu relations turn sour over Gus Dur

M. Taufiqurrahman, Jakarta

Differences over ways to handle complaints filed by Abdurrahman "Gus Dur" Wahid have aggravated relations between the Election Supervisory Committee (Panwaslu) and the General Elections Commission (KPU).

In a media briefing arranged to clarify the failure of KPU members on Tuesday to turn up for a tripartite meeting with Panwaslu and Gus Dur's lawyers, commission deputy chairman Ramlan Surbakti said on Wednesday the institution could not be held responsible for the matter.

"We declined to attend the meeting because we thought we had no dispute to settle with either Gus Dur or Panwaslu. We have repeatedly stated our stance," Ramlan said, adding that the KPU had also sent a letter to Panwaslu days before the meeting to clarify its position.

KPU representatives were invited to the meeting, which was arranged by Panwaslu to resolve a dispute between Gus Dur and the commission over the latter's decree No. 36/2004 on the eligibility of presidential and vice presidential candidates.

The ruling cost Gus Dur the opportunity to enter the race for the presidency.

To make matter worse, no KPU members showed up to receive four Panwaslu members who went, later on Tuesday, to the KPU building to hold talks on a variety of issues related to the July 5 presidential election.

Panwaslu chairman Komaruddin Hidayat regretted on Wednesday the failure and alleged the KPU had no intention of resolving the legal dispute in which it found itself.

KPU member Hamid Awaluddin gave another excuse, saying lengthy discussions with the presidential candidates' teams on Tuesday on the campaigning schedule had prevented commission members from attending a second meeting with Panwaslu members.

"We did not mean to ignore the second meeting with Panwaslu, but another meeting with the campaign teams lasted longer than we had anticipated," Hamid said at Wednesday's media conference.

In the briefing, Ramlan also denied accusations that the KPU had turned a blind eye to recommendations issued by Panwaslu with regard to numerous fraud allegations made over the April 5 legislative election.

Recently, Komaruddin lashed out at the commission in a hearing with House of Representatives Commission II for legal and domestic affairs, saying that none of Panwaslu's recommendations on election fraud had been heeded by the KPU.

"That's untrue. Although we did not take all recommendations into consideration, we followed up on some. We call on Panwaslu to retract the statement," Ramlan said.

He said that among Panwaslu's recommendations heeded by the KPU was its decision to reprimand Minister of Justice and Human Rights Yusril Ihza Mahendra, who campaigned for his party ahead of the legislative election without taking leave.

However, the KPU failed to take notice of the committee's suggestion to delay a draw (to determine the order in which the names of presidential and vice presidential pairings would appear on the ballot paper) pending the outcome of Gus Dur's legal attempt to challenge the KPU ruling.

Article 120 of Law No. 12/2003 on general elections stipulates that Panwaslu is set up by the KPU, giving the commission the ultimate authority to dissolve the committee.