The Jakarta Post , Jakarta | Mon, 03/03/2008 12:52 AM | Headlines

The election bill scheduled for approval via a vote or consensus on Monday contains many loopholes which could deal Indonesia’s hard-won democracy a major blow, a coalition of poll watchdogs has warned.

The coalition urged the House of Representatives and the government to clarify at least 19 articles deemed vulnerable to misuse by political parties.

The coalition said the articles could be used to advance party interests and would add a level of complication that would slow down the General Elections Commission (KPU).

Factions at the House have agreed on the controversial articles and may only put to vote two provisions on Monday, including on residual votes and the mechanism to determine elected candidates.

Among the articles approved is one that will allow political party members to vie for Regional Representatives Council (DPD) seats.

The election for council members in 2004 was strictly for non-partisan candidates.

The House factions have also scrapped regional attachment as a requirement for candidates to contest the election.

In a joint statement released Saturday the group said: “The article violates the spirit of the Constitution which promotes independent candidates. The House looks to pursue its own political interests.”

The group includes the Center for Election Reform (Cetro) and the Indonesian Parliamentary Center.

The coalition said political parties had also discouraged a democratic attempt to simplify the political party system after they endorsed a transitional clause that will allow parties which failed to meet the electoral threshold in 2004 to take part in the 2009 polls.

“That defies the goals of not only the drafters of the existing election law, but also the ideals of our democracy,” the coalition said.

The bill will see opened a chance for Indonesian Military and police personnel to participate in election campaigns, but it bans members of the armed forces from joining a poll committee or campaign team.

Some articles in the bill will burden the KPU as they set the number of legislative seats up for grabs in an electoral district at between 3 and 10, and determine extra electoral districts without consulting the poll body.

“The additional electoral districts should have been decided by the KPU, which is non-partisan,” the coalition said.

House factions added eight new electoral districts on Sunday, three in new province of West Sulawesi and one each in Riau, Jakarta, West Java, Banten, East Java, South Kalimantan and South Sulawesi.

There will be 77 electoral districts in the 2009 elections, with 560 House seats at stake.

Ferry Mursyidan Baldan, who chairs the House’s special committee deliberating the election bill, said the bill would be endorsed “either by a vote or consensus”.

“The House must have a decision on this bill Monday,” he said.

There were signs of hope for House factions to reach a consensus on the two disputed articles related to seats distribution mechanism.

The National Awakening Party (PKB) on Sunday agreed with distribution of residual votes at electoral districts, provided the remaining seats go to parties whose remaining votes account for at least 40 percent of the vote distribution number.

PKB, like the top two largest factions Golkar Party and the Indonesian Democratic Party, insisted the residual votes were collected at provincial level. (alf)