Last Thursday, Sayuti and two of his lawyers were working extra hard. Apparently, the Daulatul Ummah Party (PDU) and seven other Islamic parties including Muslim Community Awakening Party, Nahdlatul Umat Party, Justice Party, the United Party, and PPI Masyumi were preparing to submit a judicial review of the electoral law to the Supreme Court. The law was endorsed last week and PDU was one of its initiators.
Although involved in the passage of the bill, PDU was not happy with the final outcome. “This is a law lacking quality. It is made purposely to facilitate the dealings of parties in the lead up to the 2004 General Election. There are at least seven controversial articles in the law,” said Sayuti who represents the Province of Maluku, shaking his head.
While conveying the general response of his faction in the plenary session, Sayuti had actually requested that the DPR defer the endorsement of the bill for two weeks. There were still 11 controversial articles to be resolved when the session was in progress. Eventually differences among parties were resolved through an open vote. And in this process small parties were inevitably sidetracked.
“Bigger parties should not necessarily weaken smaller ones. Don’t let the people conclude that Article A belongs to one party and Article B to another,” said the member from PPI Masyumi.
This is the most serious criticism leveled against the electoral law so far. The criticism has been triggered by various considerations including the stipulation of Article 60 that allows an accused person like Akbar Tandjung to become a candidate of the legislature. Equally, Article 75 allowing public officials like the president and vice president to conduct election campaigns has also come under public scrutiny.
The interests of two political parties, PDI-P and Golkar, are clearly associated with these two articles.
PDI-P had earlier proposed an additional item forbidding an accused in a legal case from becoming a candidate of the legislature. Certainly, Golkar was opposed to this move. According to Rully Chairul Anwar, a member of the ad hoc committee on the electoral law representing Golkar, his party rejected the article which was not included in the proposal tendered by the government. The clause had been initiated by PDI-P. “The point has actually been included in point 1 of Article 60,” Rully said. The article in question stipulates that a candidate is not supposed to be serving a jail sentence of five years or more for a criminal offence and the sentence of which has obtained a permanent legal status ruled by a court of law.
Would the introduction of the additional clause deter House speaker Akbar’s nomination as a legislative candidate? This is highly probable. Akbar has been handed a three-year jail sentence by a state court for his involvement in a financial scandal involving Bulog (State Logistics Agency) funds. This decision has also been upheld by a high court. Rully sees the proposal of the additional clause as PDI-P’s way of boosting its bargaining position. “The party’s bargaining position in regard to other articles,” said Rully, who is also the deputy secretary-general of Golkar.
Deliberations on the electoral bill in the DPR had been really tough. Therefore, a lobby had to be conducted for almost two and a half hours in the lobby hall of Gedung Nusantara V. Eventually, PDI-P agreed to drop its proposal. Is all this for free? There is no such thing as a free lunch, goes the old political saying. In return for PDI-P`s generosity, the Golkar Party agreed to sentence 1 of Article 75 that allows public officials to campaign for the poll. This article provides a great advantage to PDI-P as the current president and several ministers belong to the party.
When the voting of Article 75 was called for, Golkar was united to annul its own proposal disallowing public officials from campaigning and supported PDI-P which wants public officials to be allowed to conduct electoral campaigns. “Their ploy was very obvious,” said a dejected Sayuti. The PPP and Crescent Star Party (PBB), two parties with ministers in the cabinet, also lent their weight to PDI-P. An ensuing open vote resulted with 232 voices in favor of PDI-P and allied parties defeating the National Awakening Party (PKB), TNI/Polri, and PDU who obtained only 100 votes.
Sayuti was visibly disappointed. “I approached Hamdan Zoelva [secretary of the PBB faction]. I asked why his party which had been with us all along had now shifted over to our rivals,” Sayuti said. Hamdan Zoelva gave no answer.
Speaking to TEMPO, Hamdan said that although public figures are now allowed to conduct election campaigns, they would be required to observe strict regulations. They should not make use of state facilities and should take leave without pay. “This is the reason why our faction finally agreed to vote for the article,” Hamdan said.
Article 75 was the last article to go through an open vote. Apparently, this article is of crucial importance to both PDI-P and Golkar. This is obvious in how skillful they were in formulating the revised text of Article 75. Teras Narang of PDI-P who “took over” the plenary session worked together with Rully to draft the new text of Article 75. Soetardjo Soerjogoeritno who presided over the session that evening gave them this opportunity. After a discussion lasting some 15 minutes, Hafiz Zawawi, who is a member of the ad hoc committee on the electoral law representing Golkar walked to the slide projector to show on the screen and to read the newly revised version of Article 75.
This irregular spectacle caused an uproar. “What sort of a session is this? Why should a couple of members be given the authority to fiddle with the article? The session should have been suspended to allow members to conduct a lobby or the matter should be referred back to the draft of the ad hoc committee. How could they draft their own text, how could there be a parallel session within an ongoing session?” retorted Sayuti, half-shouting.
The Golkar Party has an answer to this criticism. “Had Golkar been tough on the article on electoral campaigns, it would really have caused a problem for PDI-P and PPP,” Rully said clarifying the considerations of his party.
Rully added that Golkar, however, is still worried about a power vacuum when the president or the vice president takes leave to conduct campaigns. Isn’t this a compromise too, Pak Rully? “It could be seen that way, but there is a basis to the consideration,” he said.
PDI-P has also tried to play down the charges of a political compromise. According to Pataniari Siahaan, a member of the ad hoc committee on the electoral law, there was no special deal with Golkar. “Why would voting on many articles be conducted and why would deliberations of the electoral bill drag on for so long if there had been horse-trading lobbies?” asked Pataniari.
Whatever reasons Pataniari gave, PDI-P has clearly gained a great advantage in matters of election campaigns with the endorsement of Article 75. It should be noted that in the bureaucratic lineup it is Golkar personnel that dominate the posts of governors and regents especially outside Java. This is particularly true with the presence of additional provinces and regencies. “This is the reason why Golkar had easily supported PDI-P. “I think that PDI-P and PPP had fallen into the scenario of Golkar,” Rodjil Ghufron, the Chairman of the PKB faction told TEMPO.
Samuel Kotto of the Reform Faction also agreed that the stipulations of the electoral law provide a great advantage to the big parties. “Perhaps, this is the level of our democratic practices,” he said in despair.
The gavel has come down. The electoral bill has been passed. However, Sayuti from his messy office on the 22nd floor of the DPR building is just launching his offensive: Defying the dominance of big parties now facilitated by an electoral law imbued with the character of political horse-trading.
Adi Prasetyo, Abdul Manan, Tomi Lebang
TEMPO, MARCH 03, 2003-025/P. 20 Heading National