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Lower parliamentary threshold
called for

Using a parliamentary threshold in the next legislative election would simplify Indonesia's multi-party system, a coalition of non-governmental organizations said Saturday.

The coalition agreed that Indonesia's presidential system would be more compatible with a simple multi-party system.

Citing a statement made by foreign political expert Scott Mainwarning, members of the coalition agreed that, "the combination of presidentialism and multipartism makes stable democracy difficult to sustain".

Hadar Gumay, the executive director of the Center for Electoral Reform (Cetro), which is a member of the coalition, said over-fragmentation in the House of Representatives had resulted in redundant, intense deliberations and prolonged decision making.

He also said some small parties were not ready to enter the House. A limit on the number of political parties in the legislative body was therefore necessary, he said.

"The best way to reduce fragmentation would be by slashing the number of political parties in the House. They should not all participate in elections. Thus, adopting a parliamentary threshold would be more effective than the electoral threshold system," Hadar said.

He said the parliamentary threshold system was more democratic as it did not require the dismissal of losing parties in elections. Using the electoral threshold system has the potential to violate the constitution as it limits people's rights to become candidates, he said.

"Losing parties in elections that are unable to enter the House can prepare themselves better for elections in the future," Hadar said.

Rusdi Marpaung, the executive director of Imparsial, another member of the coalition, said a parliamentary threshold would benefit small parties by enabling them to learn and grow.

He said this was different from the electoral threshold system, which required losing parties in elections to cease operating, giving them no chance to develop.

The debate over thresholds for political parties has hampered the deliberation of the legislative election bill in the House.

Lawmakers look likely to agree on using an electoral threshold of 3 percent for the 2009 legislative election, but the direction to be taken in the 2014 election is still unclear.

Some lawmakers have sought an electoral threshold of 5 percent, while others have proposed a parliamentary threshold of 2 or 3 percent. There has also been talk of combining both systems.

The coalition of NGOs proposed a parliamentary threshold of 2 percent. Hadar said a higher threshold would create a closed system, in which only old, big parties could stay, while the combination of both thresholds would cause "extra-strict limitations".

Another issue that has extended the deliberation of the election bill in the House is the number of seats for lawmakers.

Some factions want to maintain the current 550 seats, while others have demanded up to 576 seats.

The coalition urged the House to keep its current 550 seats. It said the quality of representation was more important than the quantity of representation.

Jeirry Sumampow from the People's Voter Education Network (JPPR) said, "more House members would mean more money to be spent, without guaranteeing the quality of representation."

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