Subject: SCMP/Reuters - Poll delay possible, says official
Date: Fri, 15 Jan 1999 15:46:02 -0000
From: "Paula Carvalho Pinto" <paularoque@mail.telepac.pt>

Friday January 15 1999

Indonesia - Poll delay possible, says official

REUTERS in Jakarta Updated at 3.15pm:

Indonesia faces a possible delay in elections, currently slated for June 7, if parliament fails to resolve key issues under draft political laws before next week's Muslim holidays, an election law official said on Friday.

There is already widespread concern of growing unrest ahead of the election, the first since last year's downfall of former president Suharto, and many analysts say a delay could lead to near chaos.

''If there is no breakthrough and the talks are still deadlocked, I am afraid the January 28 deadline for the passage of the (political) laws will not be met,'' said Andi Mallarangeng, a member of the government-appointed team charged with drafting such laws.

''And if that happens, elections will be postponed,'' he said.

Parliament will be shut all next week, over the end of the Muslim fasting month, and resume work only on January 25.

''When the session resumes on January 25th, we only have three days...that is too short a time to resolve all the issues,'' he said.

Parliament started debating the draft political laws, which would pave the way for elections, on October 2.

The debate has been stymied over several key issues - the number of seats allocated for the armed forces in parliament, membership of civil servants in the ruling Golkar party, a proportional system for elections and composition of the supervisory committee for the elections commission.

A special committee, comprising representatives from the three official political parties and members of the armed forces, has been set up to speed up the debate on the political laws. The draft laws would then be put to the entire parliament for approval.

The elections are at the heart of sweeping economic and political reforms promised by President Bacharuddin Habibie when he replaced the autocratic Suharto who was ousted by mass protests, ravaging economic crisis and deadly riots in May after a 32-year rule.

Many are pinning their hopes on the election to usher in an era of greater democracy after decades of rule by despots.

Mr Mallarangeng warned that postponing the elections would shake Mr Habibie's government, raising the prospect of greater chaos in the country.

''Postponing elections beyond June would be dangerous as some groups and people would then ask Habibie to step down.

These people tolerated Habibie because they thought he was serious about holding elections,'' he said.

He said although the delay in passing legislation was the fault of parliamentarians, not Mr Habibie, people would hold the president responsible.

''And if Habibie goes down without elections, what mechanism do we have to replace him?'' he said.

Social unrest has flared across the country which many have blamed on the deepening economic crisis as well as political elites instigating violence as they jockey for power.

In the event of a vacuum left by the sudden departure of Mr Habibie, the constitution states that the country would be run by a triumvirate comprising the Ministers of HomeAffairs, Foreign Affairs and Defence, said Mr Mallarangeng.

Copyright ©1998 South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd.

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