Indonesia moves closer to polls

Parliament votes overwhelmingly for a special MPR session that will set new date for a general election.

INDONESIA’S Parliament yesterday passed a proposal to hold a special session of the country’s top policy-making body by “early next year” to annul Suharto-era electoral laws and set the date for a general election.

There was a unanimous vote by the 425 members present in the House of Representatives which included the three political parties and the armed forces (Abri).

The resolution did not set any date for the special session with the 1,000-member People’s Consultative Assembly (MPR).

But House Speaker Harmoko said it was important to have one “later this year or early next year” before a general election and polls to elect a new president and vice-president.

“To hold a general election, an extraordinary session of the MPR is needed.”

He said that the MPR would revise existing election laws and ratify new ones.

Members are expected to review laws on election, political parties, Parliament, subversion and bankruptcy.

The new electoral laws could include a proposed new polling system combining district elections and non-constituency seats for losing parties.

The powerful military could also see a reduced quota of 50 seats in Parliament from its current 75.

While there appears to be a somewhat broad consensus on the laws to be revised, no such agreement exists on the MPR date.

President B.J. Habibie, who replaced Mr Suharto on May 21, has vowed to hold polls “as soon as possible”.

Rejecting the possibility of staying on for the rest of the current five-year term, he said that a new president and vice-president would be in place by Jan 2000.

Under his reform timetable, a special session could be held in December this year. A general election could be held six months later followed by presidential polls in December 1999.

Abri has proposed earlier dates but General Wiranto yesterday said they were only proposals and were not cast in stone.

“We obviously prefer an earlier general election,” he said. “But we are still loyal and ready to abide by whatever decision the government and parliament makes on this matter.”

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