The Jakarta Post
Despite President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's (SBY) declaration of support for maintaining the direct elections of local heads, the Democratic Party faction at the House of Representatives has yet to formally follow suit.
As of Monday afternoon, the Democratic Party remained one of six factions officially supporting the abolition of the direct-election mechanism in the amendment to the 2004 law on regional elections, in opposition to a recent decision made by the party's central board to maintain the direct system.
'We comply with the procedures, so changes in a political party's stance with regard to an amendment proposal can only be considered after being officially presented in a formal meeting,' said lawmaker Abdul Hakam Naja, head of the working committee tasked with deliberating the bill.
Hakam, a National Mandate Party (PAN) politician, added that he expected the Democratic Party to declare its official position at the last minute.
Besides the Democratic Party, supporters of the plan to abolish the direct-election system comprise the Golkar Party, the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS), PAN, the United Development Party (PPP) and the Gerindra Party, all of which are members of the Red-and-White Coalition that nominated losing presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto and his running mate, Hatta Rajasa.
The Democratic Party's position has raised concerns among members of the Gerindra-led Red-and-White Coalition that the attempt to return the election of regional heads to the regional legislative councils (DPRDs) may not have enough support when the bill goes to a vote during a House plenary session slated for Sept. 25.
The Democratic Party currently holds 148 out of the total 560 seats at the House. If added to the seats held by parties in support of maintaining the direct-election mechanism, which are the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P, 94 seats); the National Awakening Party (PKB, 28 seats); and the Hanura Party (17 seats); the Democratic Party's support would contribute enough votes to secure the majority 287 needed to keep the existing direct elections system.
Later in the day, the leader of the Democratic Party faction at the House, Nurhayati Ali Assegaf, sent an official letter to the bill's working committee outlining the party's requirements for supporting the direct election of regional heads.
On behalf of the party, Nurhayati called on the working committee to include a 10-point proposal for improving the draft of the bill, which he said was a requirement for the party's support of the direct-election system. The proposal includes calls for cost efficiency, better management of political campaigns, funding accountability and a ban on candidates with histories of vote-buying or engaging in smear campaigns.
'Thus, we are not supporting either of the two options. We are proposing a third option, which is to maintain the direct-election system that includes the 10-point list of improvements,' Nurhayati said.
Meanwhile, supporters of the direct-election system within the Golkar Party stepped up efforts to persuade others to support their position.
'There is a large silent majority in the Golkar faction [that supports maintaining direct elections],' Golkar lawmaker Agus Gumiwang Kartasasmita said. Agus added that he was convinced that Golkar lawmakers would eventually vote to maintain the direct-election system.
Fellow Golkar lawmaker Yorrys Raweyai said that the proposal to abolish the direct election of regional heads was a decision made by party elites.
'Less than half of Golkar lawmakers will heed the elite's call,' he said.
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