Nov. 5, 2013, 9:26 a.m.
Indonesia: On 30 October, Chairman of the Indonesian Justice and Unity Party (PKPI) Lt. Gen. SUTIYOSO was sentenced by a district court to one month in prison, two months’ probation, and a Rp 1 million (US$90) fine for early campaigning. It was the first time a party chairman has ever been brought before an Indonesian court for violating an electoral regulation, and the country’s first verdict for an “electoral crime.” The act in question involved a 15-minute speech SUTIYOSO gave to hundreds of supporters that included language encouraging the audience to vote for the PKPI in the upcoming elections. According to the court’s verdict, this constituted a breach of the 2012 General Election Law, which vaguely stipulates that campaigning can only be conducted in the period of time approved by the General Elections Commission. While this verdict is an encouraging sign that the electoral law will be enforced, much impunity for early campaigning persists, with candidates and parties regularly using television and billboard advertisements to increase their exposure before the campaign period begins.
Iraq: Iraq’s parliament is bitterly divided over proposed reforms to its electoral code. Particularly contentious is the question of whether to use a single-district or multi-district system. A single-district system, where seats would be allocated in proportion to the national vote, would benefit Kurds, whose voter participation rate is double that of Iraqi Arabs. Another controversial proposal would be to increase the electoral threshold to 150,000 votes. Prime Minister MALIKI's idea, this change would most likely eliminate all but the major blocs from obtaining seats in parliament. Furthermore, parties are seeking the right to replace their MPs at will, further empowering political machines and reducing voter choice. With the most recent compromise plan falling through last Thursday, there is again no solution in sight. The electoral reform law must be passed this month to give the electoral commission six months to prepare for the legislative elections that are mandated to take place by the end of April, 2014. The previous election law was invalidated in 2010, meaning that without a new law, elections cannot be held.
Kosovo: Local elections held throughout Kosovo were marred by violence in the North, where the majority Serb population was participating for the first time. The Serbian government, long opposed to Serb participation in Kosovar governance, had recently encouraged Serbs in North Kosovo to vote in these elections at the request of the European Union, as part of its application for EU membership. However, after a day of extremely low voter turnout and crowds of Serbians heckling voters, violence was reported at several polling stations, halting the voting and forcing many votes to be annulled at those locations. Serbia was forced to cede its control of North Kosovo last April as a precondition for its EU accession negotiations.
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