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Jakarta Post

SBY bids to save direct elections

  • Ina Parlina

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Wed, October 1, 2014   /  09:32 am

Under pressure for allowing the passage of a law that will scrap direct local elections, outgoing President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono announced on Tuesday that he was now drafting a government regulation in lieu of law (Perppu) to bring back direct local elections.

Yudhoyono made the decision after meeting with executives from his Democratic Party and lawmakers representing the party at the House of Representatives.

The move was a response to a nationwide outcry that saw Yudhoyono accused of lying and working behind the scenes to scrap direct elections while issuing public statements in favor of the mechanism.

'€œThis is politics. I am taking a risk and I have decided to propose a Perppu,'€ Yudhoyono told the press conference after the meeting.

The President, however, could not guarantee that his move would meet its desired end.

'€œWe will see whether the Perppu is accepted by House lawmakers as the authority is solely theirs. If the House listens to the people'€™s aspirations about a direct local election system with improvements, we will have the system back in place in the next five years.'€

The Perppu should be passed by the House three months after its issuance. Yudhoyono is slated to leave office on Oct. 20, while the new House members will be sworn in on Wednesday.

Yudhoyono also said that he planned to sign the newly endorsed Regional Elections Law, only to make it official before rendering it void with the issuance of his Perppu.

He opted to propose the Perppu after consulting with Constitutional Court Chief Justice Hamdan Zoelva on whether he could revoke the newly passed law.

Hamdan said that during his conversation with Yudhoyono on Sunday night, he told the President that the law would take effect even if he refused to sign it, as stipulated by the Constitution.

Yudhoyono has been working against the clock to save what is left of his tattered image as a champion of democracy since he landed at Halim Perdanakusuma Airport in East Jakarta early on Tuesday after wrapping up his visit to the US and Japan.

He immediately convened a two-hour meeting with some of his Cabinet members and top officials at Halim and held a press conference at around 3 a.m. In the press briefing, Yudhoyono told the media he was working with his team on a so-called '€œPlan B'€.

Yudhoyono again held a limited Cabinet meeting after the Democratic Party meeting later on Tuesday.

While the President was looking to bring back direct elections, tensions rose within the Democratic Party on who should take the blame for the decision to walk out of a crucial House vote that paved the way for the scrapping of direct elections.

Democratic Party faction leader at the House, Nurhayati Ali Assegaf, a former aide to First Lady Ani Yudhoyono, declined to comment on whether Yudhoyono had readied punishment for those responsible for the walkout.

'€œHe understands the hard work of the faction members,'€ Nurhayati told reporters.

She added that the Democratic Party would not be worried if the next House, controlled by Prabowo Subianto'€™s Red-and-White Coalition, rejected the Perppu. '€œWe don'€™t need to worry because we are with the people. What we need is the people to side with us,'€ she said after the Democratic Party meeting.

President-elect Joko '€œJokowi'€ Widodo praised Yudhoyono for proposing the Perppu.

'€œThis is good,'€ Jokowi said. '€œWe all know that the people want a direct local election mechanism because then the people'€™s right to vote will be accommodated.'€

Red-and-White Coalition legal team member Habiburokhman, however, branded Yudhoyono'€™s efforts to issue a Perppu futile as they lacked a legal basis.

'€œThere is no emergency situation, which is required before issuing a Perppu as stipulated by the Constitution,'€ he said.

Association for Elections and Democracy (Perludem) executive director Veri Junaidi cautioned the public about Yudhoyono'€™s fresh move.

'€œWhether Yudhoyono pulls another trick, he should understand it won'€™t do him any good as President,'€ he said.

How the controversial Regional Elections Law came to be

* 2010: The Home Ministry, under the administration of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, drafts the regional election bill.

* Jun. 9, 2011:
The Home Ministry'€™s regional autonomy director-general Djohermansyah Djohan says the government is considering returning gubernatorial elections to indirect election by Regional Representative Councils (DPRDs) in order to save money and prevent conflict.

* Dec. 15, 2011: The bill is submitted to the House of Representatives for deliberation.

* June 2012:
House Commission II on home administration, election and bureaucracy forms a working committee to deliberate the bill. The committee begins the deliberation alongside the Home Ministry.

* September 2013: The bill cannot be passed as scheduled as participating legislators fail to reach a quorum.

* Dec. 10, 2013: The House agrees to continue the deliberation. Most political parties oppose the government'€™s proposal to scrap direct elections of regional heads.

* Jan. 11, 2014: Several local leaders'€™ associations file protests against the Home Ministry'€™s move to ditch direct elections.

* Feb. 4, 2014: The House and the government agree to maintain direct elections. They also agree to make all regional elections simultaneous by 2020.

* Sept. 1-3, 2014: A meeting between the House'€™s working committee and the Home Ministry at the House'€™s retreat villa in Puncak, Bogor, West Java, concludes that direct elections should be scrapped, as demanded by the Red-and-White Coalition.

* Sept. 15, 2014: Yudhoyono pledges to support direct elections.

* Sept. 18, 2014: Yudhoyono'€™s Democratic Party officially announces its support for direct elections with a 10-point improvement program.

* Sept. 26, 2014: The House passes the bill, scrapping direct elections by 226 votes to 135. The Democratic Party stages a walkout, abstaining from the vote.

* Sept. 30, 2014: Yudhoyono to issue a government regulation, in lieu of law, annulling the Regional Elections Law and maintaining direct elections.

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