Sat, 26 Feb 2000

New regencies not ready for local polls: Official

PEKANBARU, Riau (JP): An assistant to the state minister of regional autonomy, Andi Alfian Mallarangeng, urged planned elections in newly formed provinces and regencies be postponed.

Mallarangeng said the areas' financial and security preparations for the elections were insufficient.

"The planned local elections should be canceled because the new provinces and regencies lack the necessary software. Social conflicts are also still raging in those areas," he said during a panel discussion here on Thursday.

Local elections originally were planned for June 1 following the government's decision to increase the number of provinces in Indonesia. Follow-up elections also are scheduled in some areas of Aceh which could not hold elections last year due to security concerns.

All told, local elections are planned for 43 regencies in Aceh, and in the new provinces of North Maluku, West Papua and Central Papua.

Mallarangeng, who is also a member of the General Elections Commission (KPU), said given the present economic conditions, it also would be financially burdensome to the government to allocate the estimated Rp 220 billion required to hold the elections.

He added that most political parties also would find it difficult to mount serious campaigns given their expenditures in the June 7 general election.

"Furthermore, numerous parties have proposed the government give them Rp 500 million each for the elections.

"Nobody is barred from establishing parties, but don't ask the government for money," he said.

Mallarangeng said it was important for local elections to be held, but their success depended on whether conditions were favorable for such an important undertaking.

Security, the availability of financing, the political parties' preparedness to campaign and the participation of voters are crucial factors that have to be taken into consideration, he said.

Mallarangeng said the first step after postponing local elections in some areas was simply to refer to the overall results of the June 7 general election to ensure representation for those areas.

For example, the provincial legislative council in North Maluku could comprise parties in proportion to the results of the June elections in all of Maluku.

Following this step, a more independent and professional elections commission should be formed to organize the local elections, he said.

The House of Representatives and the government recently agreed to revise the law on general elections to pave the way for the President to dissolve KPU and establish a new, independent body.(11)