Thu, 03 Apr 2003

LIPI against limitation on candidates

Kurniawan Hari, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Researchers from the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI) are calling on the House of Representatives (DPR) to allow all political parties contesting the 2004 elections to nominate their own presidential candidates.

They also suggested that legislative and presidential elections be organized all at the same time.

The presidential election bill, being deliberated by the House, stipulates that only parties or coalitions garnering 20 percent of the legislative seats are allowed to field candidates in the country's first ever direct presidential election in 2004.

Minister of Home Affairs Hari Sabarno, whose ministry drafted the bill, has defended the stipulation, arguing that the regulation was aimed at ensuring that the elected president would have the backing of the House, thus creating a strong government.

However, LIPI analysts have rejected that argument, saying that the legitimacy of a president chosen through a direct presidential election came from the people, not from House members.

They also said that the position of the president under the amended Constitution was relatively powerful as he or she could not be impeached without the approval of the Constitutional Court.

"Therefore, presidential candidates should not always come from parties that have a lot of seats in the House. Even without the House's support, a president elected directly by the people would have a strong legitimacy," LIPI chairman Umar Anggara Jeni said during a hearing with the House's special committee deliberating the presidential election bill here on Tuesday.

Umar was accompanied by fellow LIPI researchers Dewi Fortuna Anwar, Syamsuddin Haris and Ikrar Nusa Bhakti.

The hearing was presided over by committee vice chairman Yusuf Muhammad of the National Awakening Party (PKB).

The General Elections Commission (KPU) has selected April 5, 2004 as the date for the legislative election. It has also announced that the two-phase presidential election would be held between June and August 2004.

More than 230 political parties have registered with the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights and all have pledged to participate in the 2004 general election.

There has been speculation that with so many participants, it would be difficult for any presidential candidate to garner the majority vote needed to form a government.

Syamsuddin has criticized the 20 percent requirement, claiming that it did not have a political or legal reason.

All political parties contesting the elections should be allowed to nominate presidential candidates, he said. "Should there be a limitation, it should be two percent," he said, referring to a stipulation in the 1999 Election Law, which was replaced by the 2003 Election Law.

"The electoral threshold is two percent. Therefore political parties have to secure at least two percent of the House seats to nominate presidential candidates," he said.

Syamsuddin also said that the elections of the president and legislative members had to be held simultaneously to cut short the period of political tension.

Dewi Fortuna Anwar, meanwhile, emphasized that lawmakers had to uphold fairness and that a regulation should not be designed merely to get rid of competitors.

The LIPI experts also suggested that all presidential candidates declare their wealth to enable the public to elect non-corrupt figures.