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Jakarta Post

Groups press ahead to challenge controversial Pilkada Law

  • Ina Parlina

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Mon, October 13, 2014   /  09:44 am
Groups press ahead to challenge controversial Pilkada Law

Our right, our voice: People rally in Jakarta on Sunday in opposition to the controversial Regional Elections (Pilkada) Law that has revoked direct elections for regional heads. JP/Wendra Ajistyatama

Civil society organizations (CSOs) and activists, who are seeking to challenge the Regional Elections (Pilkada) Law at the Constitutional Court (MK), said on Sunday that they would continue petitioning to mitigate further opposition to direct elections at the House of Representatives.

The Constitutional Court is set to hear on Monday the first of nine judicial review requests filed by different groups challenging the newly passed Pilkada Law, which prevents people from voting directly for regional leaders, a mechanism that has been in place for a decade.

Bowing to public pressure, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono tried to reinstate the mechanism only days later by issuing two government regulations in lieu of law (Perppu) to annul the Pilkada Law and the Provincial Administrations (Pemda) Law, which had also been amended to have regional and provincial legislative councils (DPRDs) elect local leaders.

A number of petitioners are calling on the court to scrap Article 3 of the Pilkada Law, which gives authority to the DPRDs to elect governors, mayors and regents, while others are seeking to have the entire law annulled.

'€œWe will not withdraw our petition because we are worried that the House will reject the Perppu and retain the Pilkada Law,'€ Wahyudi Djafar, a lawyer representing six activists and four civil society groups, said on Sunday.

'€œSuch a withdrawal would remove our opportunity to reapply a similar judicial review petition in the future.'€

In the groups'€™ petition, they argue that the provision goes against the principle of direct, free, fair and confidential elections and the principle of popular sovereignty as stipulated in Article 1 of the Constitution. According to them, local elections should be held by an independent institution.

'€œTherefore, despite the fact that the object of the judicial review no longer exists [due to the annulment], we will comply with what the court rules on Monday: Whether it will proceed or halt the judicial review,'€ Wahyudi added.

Although Yudhoyono'€™s Democratic Party has promised to do its best to ensure the House accepts the Perppu, many are skeptical given the fact that the majority of seats in the House are controlled by the Red-and-White Coalition, the supporters of the representative-based local-election mechanism. Some believe that if the Perppu is discussed by the House in January during Joko '€œJokowi'€ Widodo presidency, it may face hindrance from the Red-and-White Coalition, which is still bitter after losing to Jokowi in July'€™s presidential election.

Golkar Party lawmaker Mahyudin reiterated a similar rejection, made by other lawmakers in the Red-and-White Coalition, that they would reject the Perppu.

According to Mahyudin, the coalition did not aim to hold power via local leaders nationwide; it was merely concerned about the costs incurred by direct elections.

Mahyudin, who is a former East Kutai regent, was quoted by Antara news agency as saying: '€œWe consider direct elections are responsible for the high number of golput [abstainers] and they could potentially trigger horizontal conflict.'€

During a car free day in Jakarta on Sunday, two other civil society groups, the Association for Elections and Democracy (Perludem) and the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras), held a joint rally to garner wider support for direct local elections.

'€œWe want to be ready to face any development related to the local-election mechanism,'€ Perludem executive director Titi Anggraini said. '€œThe Perppu provides no guarantee because it needs the House'€™s consent before coming into effect and we cannot predict what decision the House will make.'€

Perludem and Kontras plan to file a judicial review request to reinstate direct elections should the House reject the Perppu in January. They had managed to collect 10,000 signatures as of Sunday.

Several online petitions on the website, including Perludem'€™s, have gathered the backing of tens of thousands of people.