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Only 15 parties likely to qualify for elections

Agence France Presse - December 28, 1998

Jakarta – All but 15 out of the 120 or so political parties that have mushroomed since the fall of Indonesian president Suharto are likely to be disqualified from the June elections if parliament endorses government proposals, a senior minister said Monday.

"I cannot predict, but from the 120 parties listed ... the ones who qualify would probably be no more than 15," Home Affairs Minister Syarwan Hamid told reporters. Hamid was speaking after a surprise meeting with President B.J. Habibie attended by three other senior ministers.

He said only a few would meet all the qualifications set by the government in its proposed revised laws on elections and political parties. Under the proposals, a qualifying political party must have "executive boards in at least one third of all the provinces and branches in at least half of the administrative districts in each of those provinces," he added.

This means that each party, to contest the June 7 polls, would have to have an executive board in at least nine out of the 27 provinces and branches in at least half of the administrative districts of a qualifying province.

"The president wishes that after the passing of election laws there will be a good election. A transparent, honest and fair election," Hamid quoted Habibie as saying.

Parliament is still deliberating party rules but many of the smaller parties have already cried foul over the proposals, charging that they have not had time in the eight months since Suharto's fall to build up provincial chapters.

Some of the smaller parties have proposed that the new rules could apply in five years' time, when the next elections are scheduled and after the weaker parties are weeded out on June 7. Parliamentary deliberations on the three legal packages are continuing with a deadline of January 28.

Armed forces chief General Wiranto said the military, known as ABRI, would enforce security during the voting with the help of a controversial civilian militia but would stay impartial.

"In ABRI's position as security enforcer, it is preparing for both physical and non-physical disturbances. It will receive assistance from the civilian militia component that would help the election procedures, even though their primary task is to handle public security," the general said.

He added that the military would not favour any one party. "Will it defend only one of the contestants such as in the past? I don't think so," he said, in a clear reference to its past support for Golkar.