The Jakarta Post
Anger turned into activism as hundreds of concerned citizens took to the streets on Sunday to stage peaceful protests throughout the country to mobilize support to challenge the newly passed amendment to the Regional Elections Law at the Constitutional Court.
In Jakarta, the protesters, who called themselves 'Direct Elections Defenders', staged a protest at the Hotel Indonesia traffic circle, which was also aimed at obtaining copies of identity cards from at least 1,000 people, the minimum requirement to be able to file a judicial review.
'We're happy to see that the public agrees with us that the bill kills their right to vote for their local leaders. Now we're ready to challenge the law at the Constitutional Court,' Association for Elections and Democracy (Perludem) executive director Titi Anggraini said during the Sunday protest.
Early on Friday, the House of Representatives passed an amendment to the law by a vote of 226 to 135 to reinstate the mechanism that had been used during former president Soeharto's New Order era.
The new law was passed after the majority of Democratic Party lawmakers walked out of the plenary session, effectively handing victory to the Red-and-White Coalition that backed the proposal.
'We're currently preparing all necessary documents to file a judicial review and we hope that next week we will have submitted our petition to the court. We're deeply disappointed by the Democratic Party's decision to walk out of the plenary session on Friday,' Titi said.
She said members of the public should get over their anger at the scrapping of direct elections and should now start organizing themselves to challenge the new law.
'There's no need to condemn the bill now as it's been passed by the House. What we need to do now is focus on the next legal battle and challenging the law at the court,' Titi added.
The move to challenge the law at the court has garnered support from Indonesians living and studying abroad.
The UK branch of the Indonesian Students Association (PPI) said in a statement that the law was a setback for Indonesian democracy, adding that it would shut the door on potential regional leaders becoming national leaders, like president-elect Joko 'Jokowi' Widodo.
'In indirect systems, regional leaders will become the political 'hostages' of politicians in local councils,' PPI UK head Faldo Maldini said.
Meanwhile, in Washington DC on Saturday, scores of Indonesian citizens took to the street in front of the Willar InterContinental Hotel, where President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono was staying during his visit to attend the 69th Session of the UN General Assembly.
The protesters brought with them banners condemning Yudhoyono.
Some of the banners read 'RIP Indonesia Democracy', 'Shame on SBY and his Non-Democrats', and 'Mr. President betrays the public trust',
Responding to the public outcry, Yudhoyono, in his capacity as Democratic Party chairman, has ordered an inquiry into who instructed all Democratic Party lawmakers to walkout of the House plenary meeting
Yudhoyono said he was disappointed with how things had turned out during the plenary session.
'I'm disappointed with the results of the political process at the House although I, as a democrat, respect the process. Again, I am disappointed with the results and the process,' he said.
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