Indonesia to reject bid to end direct polls

Indonesia to reject bid to end direct polls
Police extinguishing a fire outside Parliament in Jakarta yesterday as activists protested against the proposal to end direct elections. Many people fear a setback for democratic reforms if the Bill were to be passed.

Indonesia's Parliament was set to reject a proposal to revoke direct elections for governors, regents and mayors nationwide, in a move many greeted with relief after several weeks of concern that Indonesia's democratic reform might face a setback should the unpopular move pass.

Slightly over 50 per cent of some 500 MPs present were expected to vote to retain the current system at press time yesterday, based on their parties' positions, while an almost equal number wanted to replace it with a system where governors, regents and mayors are elected by members of local assemblies in their respective provinces, districts and cities.

The proposal, initiated by parties that backed defeated candidate Prabowo Subianto, stirred an outcry from the public as well as regional leaders earlier this month. But it also serves as a reminder that Indonesia's democratisation over the past decade continues to come under pressure to be reshaped.

Political observer Marbawi Marhazi said: "They want to show they have teeth. They lost out in the presidential election, and now they need something to show they remain relevant."

MPs yesterday also agreed to bar candidates whose parents, spouses, children, or siblings are the incumbents from contesting the same post.

And to cut costs, all 34 provinces, and some 500 districts and cities will be required to hold their election every five years on the same date, after a transition period. Such elections are currently held on separate dates.

There will also be caps on campaign spending, depending on population, in a bid to curb vote buying and money politics.

Mr Nasir Djamil, a Prosperous Justice Party MP who ran for deputy governor of Aceh in a direct election as well as in the previous electoral college system prior to 2005, said Indonesia is not ready to have direct elections.

"If you are a candidate and you visit an area, what they want to hear are not your grand plans, your visions, but your proposals. If there is no money, they won't support you," he said during a discussion in Jakarta on Wednesday.

United Development Party secretary-general Romahurmuziy said money politics is rampant and will remain so as long as Indonesia continues to have a large population of low-income citizens.

Ms Eva Kusuma Sundari from the Indonesian Democratic Party-Struggle disagreed. She said: "We are on the right track, although there are problems with direct elections. We should address the problem, not change to another system."

Indonesian Institute of Sciences analyst Indria Samego said his institute did a survey on the issue across Indonesia and found the majority of the respondents and opinion leaders support direct polls.

Indonesia opted for direct elections in 2004 when it had its first direct presidential election, and this was the basis of the direct elections for governors, regents and mayors in Indonesia.

This article was first published on Sep 26, 2014.
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