INDONESIA: Mass rally launches new electoral party

Max Lane, Jakarta

On July 23, 1500 people attended a rally at the National Library of Indonesia to publicly launch a new political party — the Preparatory Committee of the National Liberation Party of Unity (KP-Papernas) — for the 2009 Indonesian elections. Most of those attending were from poor districts in and around Jakarta. The majority were women.

The KP-Papernas had already held a conference, elected the preparatory committee, set out some basic policies, and elected as its chairperson Domingus Kiuk, the chairperson of the Indonesian National Front for Workers Struggle (FNPBI), the country’s radical left-wing trade union organisation. It was announced at the rally that Papernas would hold a founding congress in November.

Under current Indonesian law, in order for a party to gain electoral registration, it must show it has branches in more than 50% of the country’s 33 provinces, and in each of the provinces where it has members it must show it has branches in more than 50% of the districts, and in each district more than 30% of the sub-districts.

The party must prove to the electoral commission that each these branches has a functioning office. The names of the members of the local branch executive, together with copies of their ID cards, must be submitted to the electoral commission.

These requirements are clearly formulated to make it difficult for new parties, especially a party whose social base is among the poor and that therefore does not have the money to “buy” branches.

The new electoral party initiative, by reaching out to people beyond its own ranks and supporters, aims at overcoming the restrictive electoral laws. It also aims to try to start the process of overcoming the extreme fragmentation that has been a fundamental characteristic of social protest and the progressive movement since the fall of Suharto.

Of the nine organizations that are now affiliated to KP-Papernas, three are not formally associated with the PRD. These are the Workers Struggle Solidarity Group (GSPB), the Indonesian Buddhist Students Association (Hikmahbudhi) and the Indonesian Struggle Transportation Union (SBTP).

The other six are the PRD itself and PRD-led social movement organisations — the FNPBI, the People’s Cultural Work Network (Jaker), the National Student League for Democracy (LMND), the National Farmers Union (STN) and the Urban Poor Union (SRMK). Most of the 1500 people at the July 23 rally were from the SRMK.

In his speech at the Papernas launch, Domingus Kiuk stressed the need for unity among the working poor to build a movement to defeat imperialist domination of Indonesian. He explained KP-Papernas's stance of campaigning for what is being called the “Tri Panji” (Three Banners) of struggle — repudiation of the foreign debt; nationalisation of the oil, gas and electricity industries; and implementation of a national-planned industrialisation program.

High-profile and well-respected journalist and political commentator Wimar Witoelar addressed the rally, expressing his support for the Papernas project. Also expressing support were representatives of the Consortium for Agrarian Reform (KPA), a network of small farmers, farm workers and indigenous community organisations across Indonesia, and representatives of associations campaigning for compensation to victims of the Suharto regime.

Others who addressed the rally were Mohammed Soubari, a prominent intellectual and critic from the NGO sector; Sukardi Rinakit, secretary-general of the Indonesian Nationalist Association; Nursyahbani Katjasungkana, one of Indonesia’s most prominent women’s activist who is now a member of the National Awakening Party (PKB), which is associated with former president Abdurrahman Wahid.

Dita Sari spoke on behalf of the PRD, affirming its support for the Tri Pani and for the Papernas project. “It is the mothers here today, concerned about the future of their families, that again and again show the militancy that we need to fight for the Tri Panji”, she said. “And it is the youth that develop the new ideas that we need.”



August 2006

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