Presidential Threshold Likely Here to Stay

gedung DPRDespite initial demands for the law to be changed, the House of Representatives looks set on keeping the 2009 Presidential Election Law — including the 20 percent threshold for nominating a candidate. Legislators do not have the will to make changes and talks surrounding the law’s potential revision have closed, several lawmakers have said.

“If we look at the developments, I have to honestly say it is very likely the old Presidential Election Law will be used. I don’t see any strong will from the House of Representatives to make the changes,” House Deputy Speaker Pramono Anung Wibowo said in Jakarta on Thursday.

The House was divided earlier this year as legislators debated the possibility of making amendments to the current law in a bid to ease regulations surrounding presidential nominations.

The 20 percent presidential nomination threshold became a special focus in the debate, with some dubbing the policy trivial and unnecessary.

Under the current law, political parties must have at least 20 percent of the seats in the House of Representatives or win 25 percent of the votes in the legislative election in order to be eligible to nominate a presidential candidate.

According to Pramono, the current presidential election law remains relevant and will be used ahead of next year’s election. Political parties should factor in the 20 percent presidential nomination threshold in preparing themselves for the race.

“Let’s look at things positively. The 20 percent presidential threshold is part of political parties’ preparations ahead of the legislative and presidential elections. So let’s just see how things develop in the future,” Pramono said.

House Speaker Marzuki Alie backed Pramono’s statements, saying faction leaders in the House agreed to put an end to the discussions in a closed meeting several months ago.

“We have agreed not to make changes [to the presidential election law],” Marzuki said on Thursday. “So the draft bill will be put to rest.”

With the threshold staying at 20 percent, next year’s presidential election will likely see a small pool of candidates, several legislators said.

“If the presidential threshold remains at 20 percent, there may only be three presidential candidates,” House Legislative Body (Baleg) chairman and Democratic Party lawmaker Ignatius Mulyono said.

“The three presidential candidates will be proposed by big parties, while others will have to make coalitions,” he said as quoted by Suara Karya.

Tantowi Yahya, the deputy secretary general of Golkar’s central executive board, made similar predictions, saying only three candidates will likely be running for president next year, namely Golkar Party chairman Aburizal Bakrie, Great Indonesia Movement Party (Gerindra) founder Prabowo Subianto and Joko Widodo, who is widely predicted to be nominated by his party, the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P).

Golkar earlier announced its goal to earn 30 percent in the legislative election next year, while Gerindra and PDI-P have set targets of 20 percent and 27 percent, respectively.

Meanwhile, the Democratic Party, which supports the presidential threshold system, said it remains optimistic it will earn enough seats in the House next year to nominate a candidate for president.

“The Democratic Party did not want it [a revision of the presidential election law] because it is optimistic it will pass the 20 percent threshold,” said Saan Mustopa, deputy secretary general of the Democratic Party central executive board.

Saan said he was aware that his party’s electability has been on an inevitable decline since being mired in a spate of corruption cases that have seen some of its high-ranking members dragged to court, including the party’s former general chairman Anas Urbaningrum.

However, he said the party has entered a period of recovery and things are likely to improve towards the election.

“Our target is [to achieve] at least the same numbers as we did in the 2009 general elections. There are fewer political parties this time,” Saan said, referring to the 20.85 percent it won in the 2009 legislative elections.

As its convention kicked off, the Democratic Party has tried to distance itself from the ongoing corruption cases and focus instead on selecting a presidential candidate for next year’s race.

The party also hopes the convention will help increase its less-than-satisfactory electability ratings, revealed in a series of public surveys.

However, some remain skeptical as to whether the Democratic Party’s will succeed in its efforts to get back in the public’s good graces, saying whoever wins the convention may have to settle for being a vice presidential candidate in a coalition.

“If the winner of the convention does not manage to improve his electability, then he will have to agree to a lower position, such as being a vice presidential candidate, and joining a coalition with another party,” Slamet Effendy Yusuf, former chief of the Golkar Party convention committee in 2004, said last month.

The Golkar Party has on several occasions expressed an interest in pairing up with the winner of the Democratic Party’s convention, especially if it is former general Pramono Edhie Wibowo, who is a participant in the convention.

“Pramono Edhie is among those we have included in the list of potential vice presidents to pair with Aburizal,” Nurul Arifin said in July.

Meanwhile, in August, Aburizal himself publicly expressed the possibility of pairing up with the winner of the Democratic Party’s convention.

“Golkar Party’s presidential candidate will have one more interesting competitor, or maybe even an interesting partner to work together with,” he said in late August in reference to the Democratic Party’s convention, as quoted by Inilah.com.

According to Tantowi, Golkar was interested in pairing with a Javanese candidate to fill in the gap as Aburizal is from Sumatra.

“People have been making it into a controversy [Aburizal not being Javanese], and we do not want to dichotomize people from Java or Sumatra, because anyone of any race has the right to become president,” he said, a quoted by Kompas.com.

“However, that discussion has continued to develop among the public.”

He expressed hope that whoever would be Aburizal’s partner would be able to fill in such a gap in a bid to anticipate issues that may surface closer towards the election.

“Instead of letting it be a problem, it should be covered with a vice presidential candidate,” Tantowi said.

Markus Junianto Sihaloho – Jakarta Globe

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Disna Harvens

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