House of Representatives will likely maintain existing requirements for independent candidates vying for positions in next year's simultaneous regional elections despite earlier suspicions they might to make it tougher for those not receiving the backings of political parties.(Antara Photo/Anis Efizudin)

House Agrees to Keep Current Requirements for Independent Candidates

BY :MARKUS JUNIANTO SIHALOHO & YUSTINUS PAAT

APRIL 26, 2016

Jakarta. After a long and heated deliberation, the House of Representatives will likely maintain existing requirements for independent candidates vying for positions in next year's simultaneous regional elections despite earlier suspicions that the legislative body might to make it tougher for those not receiving the backing of political parties.

Lawmaker Fandi Utomo of the Democratic Party said that by 1 p.m. on Tuesday (26/04) there was still a deadlock between those who wanted to keep the current requirements and those who wanted to make them tougher.

Independent candidates currently require the support of between 6.5 percent and 10 percent of eligible voters in their constituencies, but some parties, Fandi said, want to see the threshold increased to as much as 15 percent.

The impasse was finally resolved several hours later, Arteria Dahlan of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) said, with the majority of the parties deliberating the planned revision of the Law on Regional Elections agreeing to keep the current requirements.

The revised bill still has to go through a House plenary session scheduled for Friday before it can become law.

Analysts earlier suspected that the House might want to see the requirements for independent candidates made tougher to favor the chances of candidates nominated by political parties.

Such a move might have been targeted at incumbent Jakarta Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, to thwart his chances to participate in next year's gubernatorial election, analysts say.

Basuki has said he would rather run as an independent than bow to the many demands set by political parties. The governor's decision has upset many political parties, which have struggled to come up with worthy contenders amid surveys predicting a landslide win for Basuki, popularly known as Ahok.

A group of volunteers supporting Basuki's independent candidacy, called Teman Ahok (Friends of Ahok), said they have so far collected more than 680,000 signatures from eligible voters in the capital to support his candidacy, far exceeding the 532,000 required under the current law.

Arteria said although the House would likely maintain the requirements for independent candidates, other issues are still in contention.

Several parties still want to scrap the requirement for members of the legislative to resign before they are allowed to participate in regional elections, contradicting the General Elections Commission's (KPU) view that the requirement should remain in place.

Lawmakers also want the support threshold for candidates from political parties lowered. Currently, parties must have at least 20 percent of the seats in a local legislature, or 25 percent of the popular vote, before they are allowed to nominate candidates of their own. In the absence of that, they have to form coalitions with other parties.

Arteria said some parties want the requirement lowered to 15 percent of legislative seats, or 20 percent of the popular vote in their respective constituencies.

However, there is one issue that everyone agrees on: to have the Elections Supervisory Agency (Bawaslu) hear administrative disputes. Last year, some elections had to be postponed because candidates who were disqualified by the KPU challenged their disqualification in local courts, which  took months before a final and binding ruling could be reached.

"Hopefully [the issues still in contention] will be resolved soon, so on Friday we can enact [the revised law]," Arteria said.

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