INDONESIA: New party forms 'extensive progressive network'



JAKARTA — On August 28, the Party of United Peoples Opposition (POPOR) submitted the necessary documentation to the Indonesian authorities to be registered as a legal political party.

New laws have created three categories of parties. The first is those parties that have no legal recognition. They can carry out campaign activities but cannot stand in elections or have the status of a legal entity. Such parties cannot sign contracts, open bank accounts and so on.

The second category is legally recognised parties. These parties have the status of a legal entity and can apply to be registered as an electoral participant. The third are parties that have legal recognition and are registered as an electoral participant.

POPOR will now be subject to a "verification" process in order to gain the second category status of a legally recognised party. It will then have until October to submit documentation to the General Elections Commission to win the right to participate in elections.

In order to be granted legal recognition, POPOR must prove that it has branches, with duly recognised executive boards, in at least half of Indonesia's 32 provinces. It must also prove that in each of these provinces, it has leaderships in half of the regencies. It must also prove that it has leaderships in at least 25% of the districts in each regency.

Verification teams from the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights are now visiting provinces, regencies and district towns to confirm the party's documentation. Checks include sighting all internal party documents regarding the appointment or election of party executive boards at each level.

Every member of the board must present a valid state identity card that shows they are a resident in the area. At every level, it must be shown that the party has a physical headquarters, with a sign out front stating the party's name and branch, and with the party flag, as well as the Indonesian flag. Each headquarters must also show it has means of communication, such as telephones or, at district level, at least a typewriter and letterhead.

The local branch must also have letters from the district, regency or provincial office stating it is aware of the existence of the branch. The branch must also have a letter from the owners of the building in which the office is situated stating that they are aware that the premises is being used as a political party office.

In an outstanding effort, POPOR, which was only founded on July 28, has been able to submit documentation for 18 provinces, and the requisite number of regencies and districts. Activists from its component organisations, in particular the Peoples Democratic Party (PRD), spread out from the major cities to make contact with members, ex-members, sympathisers, and members and leaders of a range of other organisations interested in joining, campaigning for or otherwise helping POPOR. Everybody has reported an extremely heartening response.

"No matter where our people have visited", POPOR chairperson Dita Sari told Green Left Weekly, "the overwhelming sentiment among the people is to reject the existing political elite. Everywhere there is every kind of group organising, with every kind of issue, complaint or demand imaginable."

Sari and other activists explained that the reaction to the formation of POPOR throughout the country has varied. "In some places, whole organisations have affiliated. In other areas, individual leaders of trade unions we had hardly known before became the leaders of local POPOR branches, in some cases people did not want to formally join but mobilised their members to campaign to set up POPOR."

In some cases, local branches of other left-oriented parties have decided to join POPOR, despite their national offices failing to do so.

Sari also explained that POPOR's progress was still in a very early stage. "We are still small and have no resources compared to the mainstream parties. And we still have to win registration with the General Elections Commission", she said. Electoral registration requires proof of the existence of branches in two-thirds of all provinces and in two-thirds of all regencies in each of those provinces. In addition, the party must present the identity cards and party membership cards of a minimum of 1000 members from each regency in which it claims to have members.

"We are still optimistic, despite our lack of financial resources", Sari told GLW. "This is the biggest extension yet of the democratic and progressive network throughout Indonesia. There is just no other party that has broken away from the old Suharto-era way of doing things: the old 'bread-and-circus' style of politics. Buying votes and putting on festivals. There are more and more workers, farmers, poor people in the kampungs [poor neighbourhoods], who have real grievances on almost every front, who are suffering dreadfully under the neoliberal policies of the government and who are sick of its empty talk. They all want a new kind of politics. They are ready to act. The question is, can we get our message to them."

Sari also explained that the early coalitions between the PRD and parties like the Bung Karno Nationalist Party (PNBK) and the Peoples Struggle Party (PPR) had collapsed. The PNBK, a dissident breakaway from the Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri's party, initially put its name to a very progressive joint platform with the PRD and other groups. Since then it has dropped any collaboration and is engaged in a "kind of policy-free populism". The PPR also dropped out of joint work, declaring that it would go it alone. In the end , it failed to submit the necessary documentation to become a legally registered party. It is possible that PPR may again work with POPOR.

As the new party's confidence grows with the success of the POPOR registration campaign, there is talk of POPOR participating in Indonesia's first direct presidential election, set for next July.

Any party that gets 3% of the vote in the general election can nominate a candidate. The logical candidate to lead such a campaign, which could further extend the progressive democratic network, would be Dita Sari. However, she is not eligible to stand as a recent law on presidential elections stipulates that a presidential candidate must be over the age of 40. This law disqualifies the generation that led the fight to overthrow the Suharto dictatorship.

From Green Left Weekly, September 10, 2003.
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