The Jakarta Post
President Susilo Bambang Yu-dhoyono is being called on to support strong public will to keep direct
regional elections, even though doing so will go against the stance of his ruling Democratic Party.
Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI) political observer Siti Zuhro said on Saturday that Yudhoyono should consider the stance of the Home Ministry, which supports direct elections. 'Hopefully Pak SBY does not support both sides,' she said.
The bill has drawn public ire as the majority of political parties grouped under the Red-and-White Coalition of losing presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto changed their stance after the presidential election to oppose the current direct election system.
Arguing that elections have caused costly politics and triggered conflicts in the past decade, six political parties, which together control 420 seats in the House of Representatives ' including the Democratic Party ' have rallied behind a proposal to reinstate the Soeharto-era election system, when Regional and Municipal Legislative Councils (DPRDs) elected local heads.
Given the current balance of power in the House, the Red-and-White Coalition will surely trump the remaining three factions that together form the Gotong Royong Coalition, led by president-elect Joko 'Jokowi' Widodo of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P).
Regional heads have also begun to revolt against the indirect election proposals.
Jakarta Deputy Governor Basuki 'Ahok' Tjahaja Purnama and Singkawang Mayor Awang Ishak have resigned from the Gerindra Party and National Mandate Party (PAN), respectively.
The Home Ministry, which initiated the bill and had been a proponent of DPRD elections, has changed its stance to supporting direct elections.
As of last week, Yudhoyono had not addressed the issue.
Presidential spokesman Julian Aldrin Pasha said the President trusted lawmakers to decide on the bill.
Siti said the stance of the Democratic Party, whose chairman is Yudhoyono, had caused confusion in the House as it contradicted the stance of the ministry, which represents the government.
'If it's the government's [stance], then it also means [it is the stance of] Pak SBY. Meanwhile, he also serves as Democratic Party chairman. This means that his position remains vague,' she said.
Home Ministry spokesman Dodi Riatmadji said on Saturday the government had finished drafting the two versions of the bill and it would submit the drafts to the working committee at the House. One version stipulates direct regional elections and the other stipulates regional elections through the DPRD.
Association for Elections and Democracy (Perludem) executive director Titi Anggraini said the President should immediately speak out on the issue.
'The government, in this case Pak SBY, should be stern and keep the option of direct elections intact,' she said. 'The government should be held responsible for this controversy since the initial idea of the [bill] came from the government in 2012.'
Democratic Party lawmaker Khatibul Umam Wiranu of House Commission II overseeing domestic governance said on Saturday the difference in stance between the party in the House and the government was not necessarily a problem. 'It does not violate any law,' he said.
Khatibul also dispelled the notion of Yudhoyono supporting both sides. 'The answer from Pak SBY is clear by referring to the law that says the House is the authority that can ratify a law. The government should not intervene,' he said.
Another major member in the Red-and-White Coalition, the Golkar Party, has reiterated its commitment to supporting the DPRD elections.
Golkar chairman Aburizal Bakrie said on Saturday the party supported the proposal since it would cut back the state budget, citing the government's allocation of Rp 70 trillion (US$5.9 billion) for hundreds of local elections in 2015.
'I'm surprised to learn about the figures. Imagine if there are 500 direct elections in the coming years, the government will have to allocate more than Rp 160 trillion,' he said as quoted by Antara news agency on the sidelines of a national meeting of Kosgoro, a Golkar-affiliated organization.
Kosgoro chief Agung Laksono, who previously rallied for Aburizal's early dismissal following the defeat of the party's presidential candidate, Prabowo, said Kosgoro would follow the stance of the party although he suggested that it was also listening to the public's aspirations.
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