The Jakarta Post
President Susilo Bambang Yu-dhoyono issued on Thursday night government regulations in lieu of law (Perppus) to repeal two controversial laws that have revoked direct elections for regional heads.
Yudhoyono stated that the two Perppus were urgently needed to protect 204 local elections scheduled for next year from potential chaos because of the drastic changes entailed by the laws.
In a controversial vote that saw a walkout staged by Yudhoyono's Democratic Party faction, the House of Representatives passed the Regional Election (Pilkada) Law, ending 10 years of direct regional elections. Amendments to the Regional Administration (Pemda) Law soon followed to adjust to the major changes entailed in the Pilkada.
The vote provoked a nationwide public outcry and condemnation of the President and his party.
'I share the disappointment of more than half of the Indonesian population over the passage of the [Pilkada] law. My choice is to support direct elections. I was elected in 2004 and 2009 as President through direct elections,' Yudhoyono said.
He also set out 10 points of improvements that he would like to see included in the next Pilkada deliberation, should the House of Representatives approve the Perppu.
With the Perppu, Yudhoyono hands back the fate of direct elections to the House as both regulations must be approved by lawmakers before they can take effect.
Many are skeptical that his move will succeed in bringing back direct elections, as the majority of seats in the new House are controlled by the Red-and-White Coalition, which supports the representative-based local election mechanism. Factions of parties in the coalition were those that sponsored the passing of the controversial law.
Alongside the Perppu, a number of groups have filed a judicial review to challenge the law at the Constitutional Court.
A former regency candidate and an executive director of the Indonesia Anti-Corruption Community (MAKI), Boyamin Saiman, was among those who filed a challenge to the law on Thursday.
'We are pressing ahead with the judicial review. We must ensure the return of direct elections. The Perppu has a high chance of being politicized or turning into a political compromise for Yudhoyono and his political party,' he said. 'The judicial review is to ensure that we, the people, do not become victims.'
Six activists and four civil society groups, including human rights monitor Imparsial, filed a similar judicial review request to the court just days after the Pilkada was passed, demanding the deletion of a key article in the law that gives authority to regional legislatures (DPRDs) to elect governors, mayors and regents.
They argue that the provision runs contrary to the principle of a direct, free, fair and confidential election and the principle of popular sovereignty as stipulated by Article 1 of the Constitution. According to them, a local election should be held by an independent institution.
Wahyudi Djafar, a lawyer representing the petitioners, confirmed they would press ahead with the case.
The Perppu, however, has put the law in limbo and it therefore cannot yet be judicially reviewed.
Feri Amsari, a researcher at the Center of Constitutional Studies (Pusako) at Andalas University in West Sumatra, said it would be best for any judicial review to wait until the House had given its verdict on the Perppu.
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