Mon, 22 Dec 2003

New parties struggling to recruit candidates

Ahmad Junaidi, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Facing difficulties in recruiting vote getters, the political parties that will make their electoral debuts next year have urged the General Elections Commissions (KPU) to extend the registration period for their legislative candidates.

"We will ask the KPU to extend the registration for legislative candidates for about two weeks. We will officially submit a letter to seek such extension on Monday," Freedom Bull National Party chairman Eros Djarot said.

The KPU has set a Dec. 29 deadline for the 24 political parties which have qualified for the elections to submit their lists of legislative aspirants.

According to Eros, the longer period for registration process was needed to allow the selection of a considerable number of "quality candidates".

He claimed all of the 18 new political parties had agreed to ask for the extension, and hoped the long-established parties would support their request.

"If the six old parties refuse, it's okay. At least we have made a try," Eros, who is a noted film director and song writer, told reporters after opening the party's national meeting at its headquarters.

Some major political parties, such as the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) and the Golkar Party, are still finalizing their lists of legislative candidates. The PDI-P said it would submit its list on the final day, Dec. 29.

President Megawati Soekarnoputri's PDI-P had earlier announced her party had recruited a number popular figures, including local showbiz celebrities Dessy Ratnasari and Marissa Haque, as candidates for the House of Representatives.

Golkar had earlier released its list, which included well known names, such as film star and women's activist Nurul Arifin.

The PDI-P is also retaining businessman Arifin Panigoro, and has nominated a number of intellectuals, such as Rizal Malarangeng.

Some parties, both old and new, have resorted to former military officers or government officials a lack of experienced candidates among their own members.

Experts consider the parties are recruiting such popular figures as their vote getters in the elections, something that has been common in past elections. The first polls following the fall of the New Order in 1999 saw the parties nominating their own members to sit in the House.

New parties, such as the National Democratic Party (PDK), the New Indonesia Alliance Party (PPIB) and Reform Star Party (PBR), said on Saturday that the extension of the registration period was necessary for technical and administrative reasons.

PDK chairman Ryaas Rasyid said many legislative aspirants were reportedly facing difficulties in obtaining the required documents, particularly the certificate of good health and certificate of good conduct from the police.

"It's not easy to obtain the documents in such a short time, especially for those who live in remote areas," Ryaas, who is also a former state minister for regional autonomy, told The Jakarta Post.

The PBR's secretary-general Djaffar Badjeber shared Ryaas' view, saying that candidates in remote areas outside Java lacked the money to pay for the a general checkup in a hospital as required by the KPU.

Beside a lack of public transportation to reach the hospital, Djaffar said the aspirants outside Java had complained about the cost of a general checkup, which could be up to Rp 300,000 (US$35).

The election of legislative members will take place on April 5, 2004, while the landmark direct presidential election will be held on July 5.