20 September 2019 (closed)
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Incumbent Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (SBY) announced on Tuesday (30/09) that he prepares a plan to undermine the new bill - accepted by Indonesia’s House of Representatives (DPR) - that blocks direct elections for regional leaders (leaving it to regional legislatures to elect mayors, district heads and governors). Many institutions and people have objected against the new bill as it is regarded a setback for the democratization process in Indonesia. SBY also immediately expressed its concern about the passing of the new bill.
However, SBY’s criticism on the passing of the bill is surprizing as it was his administration that submitted the bill to the DPR three years ago, implying that he had approved the submission of the new bill. This is also the reason why SBY cannot reject to sign the bill into law (as it has already passed the DPR).
However, SBY claims to have a “plan B” to undermine the new bill. At a press conference this morning, the president stated that his team will work on the plan today (30/09) and will have it ready by tomorrow.
Meanwhile, various individuals and (non-governmental) organizations - including the International NGO Forum on Indonesian Development (INFID) and the Press Legal Aid Foundation (LBH Pers) - have filed requests for a judicial review of the bill at the Constitutional Court (Mahkamah Konstitusi) as the people’s fundamental constitutional rights have been violated.
Article 3 of the bill stipulates that elections of mayors, district heads and governors is to be conducted by local and regional legislative councils. The bill was able to pass parliament after SBY’s Democratic Party walked out of the plenary session last week, thus leaving a majority for the Merah-Putih coalition (referring to the political parties that supported controversial former army general Prabowo Subianto). The Merah-Putih coalition will control 353 of the 560 seats in Indonesian parliament after inauguration. Subianto was one of the important cronies within Suharto’s authoritarian New Order government (1966-1998) and an alleged human rights violator. Subianto’s loss during the presidential election (July 2014) is believed to be the reason why the Merah-Putih coalition overwhelmingly voted in favour of the bill as president-elect Joko Widodo (Jokowi) was able to rise through the political ranks through direct elections. Analysts fear that the Merah-Putih coalition would also like to abolish direct elections at the national level as a DPR majority is able to amend the 2008 Presidential Election Law and the Constitution.