Sat, 03 Jun 2000

On direct elections

If, as you suggest in your June 2 editorial, Indonesia holds a direct presidential election in 2004, it should use a one person- one vote system with 50 percent plus one needed to win.

This would avoid the anti-Javanese bias of the 1999 general election and selection of the People's Consultative Assembly (MPR). Requiring victory in a minimum proportion of provinces or using weighted electoral colleges would appeal to federalists, but it would discriminate against voters in Java. This would be inappropriate in Indonesia, which is a union of equal people, not a federation of equal states.

Some commentators say that Javanese voters would be prejudiced against candidates from outside Java and would choose a native Javanese candidate even if the non-Javanese candidate would better serve their interests. However, it is also possible that Muslim voters would be prejudiced against non-Muslim candidates, Malays against Papuan candidates or civilians against candidates from military backgrounds. This does not mean there should be extra votes for non-Muslims, Papuans and military members.

In any case, the fear of polarization between Javanese and non-Javanese voters is exaggerated. Direct elections are highly competitive and every candidate will seek support in every province of Indonesia. To win 50 percent of total votes a candidate will need solid support both inside and outside Java.

Of course, living inside or outside Java affects a person's interests and therefore their vote. But so does being rich and poor, educated or less educated, urban or rural, young and old, employer and employee etc. In short, every person is unique. This is precisely why the vote of every person must count equally, with no group being victimized as voters whose votes count for less than everyone else's.