House begins talks on presidential election bill
Although the House of Representatives is yet to formally begin deliberating the presidential election bill, factions at the House have begun wrangling over the minimum requirements for political parties to be allowed to nominate candidates.
Major factions at the House, namely the Democratic Party, the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) and the Golkar Party, have expressed their preference to revert to the 2008 Presidential Election Law, which requires parties to win at least 20 percent of House seats or 25 percent of popular votes to be eligible to nominate a candidate.
Politicians from the parties argued that a higher threshold would produce the best candidates.
“A higher threshold will limit the number of candidates. Too many candidates will only confuse voters. It will also open the possibility of political horse-trading,” Democratic Party executive Sutan Bathoegana told reporters on Wednesday.
He said smaller parties could join the three major political parties in future presidential polls.
Golkar faction secretary Ade Komaruddin said that a higher threshold in presidential elections would help create more stable government.
“It will be difficult for an elected president to govern if he doesn’t have major support within the House. For this reason, candidates nominated by parties with a large number of seats in the House will certainly be much better,” he said.
Meanwhile, smaller parties at the House vowed that they would fight for a lower threshold in the 2012 presidential election.
“We prefer an amendment to the Presidential Election Law to stipulate a 3.5 percent minimum threshold, which would be consistent with the minimum parliamentary threshold required in the new Legislative Election Law,” said Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) secretary-general, Anis Matta.
Anis said that with the lower threshold, the PKS could nominate its own candidates or in coalition with other smaller parties, as well as offer more choice to voters.
The House’s National Awakening Party (PAN) faction leader, Tjatur Sapto Edy, concurred with Anis, saying that a minimum 3.5-percent threshold would allow fresh faces to join the race.
“The people have the right to vote for their preferred leaders, which is more likely to be met with more candidates joining the race,” Tjatur said.
Tjatur, however, was quick to add that his faction would be ready to accede to a higher threshold of up 15 percent.
The House leadership has pledged that the presidential election bill will be endorsed by the end of this year.
Political parties have touted senior politicians like Megawati Soekarno Putri, former vice president Jusuf Kalla, Golkar chairman Aburizal Bakrie, the Great Indonesia Movement Party (Gerindra) patron Prabowo Subianto, Coordinating Economic Minister and PAN chief Hatta Rajasa, First Lady Ani Yudhoyono and State-Owned Enterprises Minister Dahlan Iskan as their presidential candidates to contest the 2014 presidential poll.
It looks certain that Golkar, Gerindra, and PAN will endorse Aburizal, Prabowo and Hatta, respectively.
Other parties like the Democratic Party and the PDI-P have not yet decided whom they will nominate.
“We haven’t thoroughly discussed presidential candidacy because we are focusing on empowering our members. But, rest assured, we will nominate a pro-people leader,” Maruarar Sirait of the PDI-P said.
The PDI-P’s chief patron and Megawati’s husband, Taufiq Kiemas, has voiced his preference for a younger candidate.
“We must create an opportunity for young leaders to emerge and lead the country. The PDI-P and other parties must take this into consideration,” Taufiq said.
Last week, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono held a private meeting with Prabowo, raising speculation that a deal was being cut for the 2014 presidential election.