Wed, 12 Sep 2001

Parties ready for direct presidential election in 2004

JAKARTA (JP): Despite ongoing discussions to amend the 1945 Constitution, political parties expressed on Tuesday their readiness to contend a direct presidential election in 2004.

The Golkar Party challenged other political parties to make the necessary changes to the Constitution to let the people elect their national leader in 2004 as well as to improve the quality of democracy in the country in the future.

"Golkar has long since been ready for direct presidential and vice presidential elections and it will be better if all parties agree to it in 2004," Akbar Tandjung, chairman of the Golkar Party, said here on Tuesday.

Akbar, also speaker of the House of Representatives, said Golkar was optimistic of a major victory in 2004 as it had come second in the 1999 general election.

"Golkar has numerous popular figures to win the general election and presidential and vice presidential elections," he said, stating that the general election to elect legislators should be separated from the presidential and vice presidential election.

Slamet Effendy Yusuf, deputy chairman of Golkar, said the direct presidential election should be based both on the popular vote and electoral votes to avoid future presidents coming from densely-populated Java.

"Besides the popular vote, the next direct presidential election should be based on electoral districts to allow candidates from outside of Java to become president. If it is based purely on the popular vote, future presidents will come from Java because at least 60 percent of the population is in Java," he said.

Slightly different to Golkar, the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI Perjuangan) wants the direct presidential election to be part and parcel of the general election, for reasons of efficiency.

"All parties contending the next elections should simultaneously nominate their presidential and vice presidential candidates. And the party which gains a single majority in the elections will automatically rule without a presidential election by the People's Consultative Assembly (MPR). If no party gains a single majority, another election should be held," Jacob Tobing, a legislator of PDI Perjuangan, said.

The United Development Party (PPP), National Awakening Party (PKB) and the People's Sovereignty Party (PDU) also threw their weight behind the proposed direct presidential election in order to strengthen the institution of the presidency.

"With direct presidential and vice presidential elections, the next government's position remains strong because the MPR could not impeach a president arbitrarily as happened recently," said Yusuf Muhammad, chairman of the PKB faction in the Assembly.

The National Mandate Party (PAN) hailed the proposed direct presidential election, but said the MPR should select the state leadership duo as a package comprising presidential and vice presidential candidates. There would be two packages put forward, one from each of the parties that had come respectively first and second in the general election.

"So, our party is very eager to implement the direct presidential election in 2004, but the MPR should determine two packages of candidates from which a selection is made," Hatta Radjasa, secretary-general of PAN, said.

Soediarto, spokesman for the societal group faction said that to have a wise and suitable president, the presidential election should continue to be conducted by the MPR because a majority of the people knew nothing about presidential candidates and tasks.

Meanwhile, factions in the MPR were still divided over the MPR's composition, its tasks and the electoral system, depending on the presidential election.

All factions, minus the societal group representatives faction, have agreed to revamp the MPR to become a joint session comprising the House of Representatives and regional representatives (DPD) tasked with constitutional and impeachment affairs.

Jacob Tobing, chairman of the Assembly's Ad Hoc Subcommittee, said almost all factions were of the same opinion that the MPR should only have members who were elected through general elections and its main tasks would be to make a new constitution or constitutional amendments and to carry out impeachment if the direct presidential election was accepted.

"This will also mean that both the Indonesian Military and societal groups will have no representatives in the MPR in the future," he said.

The present Constitution stipulates that besides making new laws, the MPR has as its tasks the elect of a president and a vice president. (rms)