House, SBY face public wrath
The Jakarta Post
Jakarta, posted: Sat, September 27, 2014 | 09:57 am
The House of Representatives' decision to scrap direct elections of regional heads has sparked widespread public outrage, with civil rights groups and members of the public saying that the move was a rollback to Soeharto's New Order era.
Human rights watchdog Imparsial executive director Poengky Indarti said the newly passed regional elections law was a setback for democracy in the country.
'The reform era allowed for people to directly elect regional heads. Now, we have restored those rights to the regional legislative councils [DPRDs]. We are going back to the New Order era,' she said on Friday.
Chrisbiantoro from the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras) suggested that the introduction of the law, which is supported by the Red-and-White Coalition of losing presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto, was merely a political move to undermine president-elect Joko 'Jokowi' Widodo.
'The political maneuver of Prabowo's coalition has tarnished our democracy,' he said.
Prabowo's coalition argued that the direct-election system must be scrapped as it was rife with vote-buying. Yogyakarta's Kulon Progo regent, Hasto Wardoyo, rejected the suggestion.
'The decision to take part in transactional politics is determined by candidates individually. If they don't offer money to the public, then the public will let their conscience dictate who they vote for,' he said.
Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) deputy chairman Bambang Widjojanto suggested that regional elections through DPRDs would instead open the door to vote-buying practices among politicians.
He cited data from the Home Ministry's directorate general for regional autonomy stipulating that there were 290 regional heads implicated in various graft cases between 2004 and 2014, while 2,960 legislative candidates were implicated during the same period.
'The figure tells us how dangerous it [indirect elections] is. We know that direct elections are prone to vote-buying, but that only involves petty cash, while regional elections through DPRDs would be prone to vote-buying involving large sums of money,' Bambang said.
Bandung Mayor Ridwan Kamil, whose nomination was backed by Prabowo's Gerindra Party, said that indirect elections would reinstate legislatures' control over future governors, mayors and regents.
'With indirect regional elections, candidates in the regions will be practically controlled by elites in Jakarta,' he wrote via his Twitter account @ridwankamil.
Citizens have also expressed their frustration over the law through social media, with many of them blaming President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono for failing to keep his promise to maintain direct elections.
#ShameOnYouSBY topped Twitter's worldwide trending topics list on Friday.
'I voted for you @SBYudhoyono to take Indonesia to the next level, not to kill democracy. #ShameOn-YouSBY,' a Twitter user, Chrisma Albandjar, said via his account@chrisleft.
Philip J. Vermonte from the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) shared the view of the netizens.
'SBY won our first direct election in 2004. If we didn't implement direct elections at the time, SBY wouldn't have won as his Democratic Party only garnered 7 percent of the vote in the legislative election. By restoring indirect elections, he is going against the spirit of democracy,' he said.
Kontras, along with several NGOs, are urging members of the public to join them in filing a judicial review on the controversial law with the Constitutional Court. Those who wish to join can send their identity details to cell phone number 082217770002.
An online petition on change.org titled 'Membatalkan UU Pilkada oleh DPRD', which urges the court to annul the law, had garnered 10,063 signatories as of Friday evening.
Meanwhile, Central Java Governor and Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) politician Ganjar Pranowo pointed out that with the indirect-election system, his chance for reelection was slim considering that the local legislature was controlled by Prabowo's coalition.
'It would be impossible for me to be reelected through the system. It would be better for me to retire if the system is implemented,' he said. (idb)