Long road for TNI, police to vote
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It appears that members of the Indonesian Military (TNI) and the National Police will not be able to vote in general elections anytime soon as President Susilo Yudhoyono has rejected a proposal to grant them voting rights.
Yudhoyono said that Indonesia’s young democracy must not suffer by having members of the TNI and police bickering over their political preferences.
“Let’s just face up to the fact that we are not ready yet. If military and police officers participate in political campaigns, competing among themselves, that will probably become a problem for the TNI and the police,” Yudhoyono said in a recent statement. Yudhoyono said that members of the military and police could vote only when democracy had taken root in the country.
“When the time comes. When our democracy is already strong and solid,” he said.
Defense observer Al Araf said the government has the prerogative of whether and when to give members of the military and police voting rights.
He said that members of the military and police, under laws and regulations, are treated differently to civilians particularly when it comes to legal matters.
Al Araf proposed that once they were given political rights they must also bow to civilian laws.
“Military officers must be subject to the ‘equality before the law’ principle, in the sense that any criminal charges against military members must be tried in civilian courts instead of military courts,” Al Araf said.
It would require an amendment to the 1997 Military Court Law, he added.
“If members of the military are allowed to vote while the law is not amended, they may abuse their political rights because they feel they are immune to civilian law. They could utilize such ‘impunity’ to benefit certain political groups,” Al Araf said.
Lawmaker Abdul Malik Haramain of the National Awakening Party (PKB) said that sooner or later members of the TNI and the police must be allowed to vote given their commitment to support democracy and reform in the country.
“Granting them voting rights actually supports our democracy,” he said.
Yudhoyono said that the military and the police themselves are not ready for voting rights.
“I have talked several times about this with both the TNI commander and the National Police chief. I think their views are logical and clear that, between now and the 2014 elections, [military and police officers] are not ready,” he said.