Thu, 25 Mar 1999

Parties abusing campaign ruling to be disqualified

JAKARTA (JP): Political parties will be disqualified from the June general election if proven guilty of violating or ignoring campaign rules, scheduled to be passed by the General Elections Commission (KPU) on Thursday.

National Elections Committee (PPI) chairman Jacob Tobing said disqualification would be the maximum penalty against parties breaching the campaign rules. Authority to impose sanctions will lie with the Election Supervisory Committee.

"The Election Supervisory Committee is expected to be a fair referee in handling violations in all phases of the election process," he told The Jakarta Post on Wednesday.

Jacob, also deputy chairman of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI Perjuangan), said parties would be held responsible for violations and clashes involving their supporters during the campaign period scheduled from May 18 to June 4.

Parties would be considered to have failed in curbing their supporters, he said. PDI Perjuangan supporters have also been involved in a number of recent clashes.

Jacob said parties would also be barred from mobilizing their supporters in open fields, or moving them from one regency or mayoralty to others in an effort to prevent brawls.

"The National Police, which will be in charge of security during the campaign season, is expected to be strict against any violations of the campaign rules ... We should learn from bad experiences from general elections in the past."

The 1997 elections also barred campaigning at open sites, but problems arose during transportation of supporters to and from rallies.

Supporters of various parties have already started riding in open trucks to and from party functions, without reprimands from the police.

Jacob was confident the KPU could help avoid clashes.

In line with fears of clashes, campaigns may be restricted to dialogs in closed arenas, a measure which would inevitably limit the numbers of participants.

"The campaign schedule for all 48 parties will be designed so well that no clashes between party supporters will occur during the campaign season," he said.

Campaign themes will be also limited to contestants' programs and outlooks "which are not against the 1945 Constitution and the national development program" apart from state ideology Pancasila, he said.

Jacob said that the election commission would also issue "11 commands" for political parties, inclusive of activities of their supporters and campaigners.

These would include barring campaigners and supporters from debating the 1945 Constitution, attacking individuals, religion, ethnicity, race and other parties, inciting violence, bringing guns, issuing threats of violence, inciting supporters to commit subversion, campaigning in streets and damaging party banners and flags installed in permitted sites.

Central Java party officials have said that hundreds of their banners and flags have been damaged by supporters of other parties.

Election rules also bar parties from recruiting all government and military officials, including ministers, for campaigning during the elections.

KPU deputy chairman Adnan Buyung Nasution said that there was no substantive reason to bar ministers or other officials from campaigning for their parties. He added it was their moral obligation to fight for their political loyalties, acknowledging it was not unusual for ministers to campaign in democratic countries such as the United States, France and Canada.

"But the ban has been made because ... the nation is still traumatized by the bad experience ... when many officials used state facilities to campaign for their party," he said.

Jacob warned officials, including village chiefs and subdistrict heads, against intimidating people into voting for particular parties.

Political parties should also watch the registration of prospective voters by authorized election staff, he said, with the process to run from April 4 through May 4.

He said the election committee also simplified the requirement for registration. People lacking identity cards will be allowed to show citizenship letters from their neighborhood chiefs.

He added the election committee's 60 members would visit the provinces on Thursday to install provincial election committees. They will subsequently install regional committees in regencies and mayoralties. (rms)