Sat, 23 Aug 2003

Seat allocation get mixed reactions

Moch. N. Kurniawan, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Electoral activists gave on Friday mixed reactions over the decision by the General Elections Commission (KPU) to allocate 550 House of Representatives seats for the nation's 32 provinces in the 2004 general elections, with more than 50 percent of the seats going to Java.

Hadar N. Gumay of the Center for Electoral Reform (Cetro) said the disparity of seats given to Java and to other provinces was appropriate, as Java accounts for 59 percent of the country's 214.8 million population.

The KPU has allocated 303 seats, or 55 percent, to provinces in Java in proportion with the voter population represented on that island.

Ray Rangkuti of the Independent Election Monitoring Committee (KIPP) criticized the seat allocation, since it was not in line with efforts to narrow the social and economic gap between Java and other islands.

Hadar further said the allocation of House seats should have been pegged closer to the actual voter representation for each respective province.

"If the KPU intends to calculate highly and low-populated areas individually, and not simply determine Java as a highly populated area and (islands) outside Java as a low-populated area, we will have a fairer distribution of seats," Hadar said.

He also complained about the KPU's assumption that new provinces -- Banten, Gorontalo, Bangka Belitung, Riau Islands and West Irian Jaya -- should only receive a minimum of three seats each, as in past elections.

"Such an assumption is too severe. For example, they should have assumed that highly populated Banten, which was separated from West Java, should have more than the three seats it had in the 1999 elections.

"I also don't agree with their assumption that the new provinces already existed during the 1999 election. There are better ways to arrange this," Hadar said.

Ray warned that the great disparity in the allocation of House seats allocation would incur protests from several provinces outside Java.

"There will be parties that will question the validity of the KPU's decision on the House seat allocation," he said.

He also pointed out that several provinces that did not meet the quota of 325,000 voters per seat had been given at least three seats to comply with the General Elections Law.

"This means that the seats must be taken from other provinces," he said.

He thus called on the KPU to hold a public discussion or consult with the legislative council at the provincial and regental levels and ask for feedback on the seat allocation.

"The KPU should then request a final, legal opinion from the Constitutional Court," he said.

The KPU, which has also completed the allocation of seats for all legislatures at the provincial and regency levels, must now tackle the job of establishing electoral districts.