Indonesia's new fresh-faced, star-studded House feared inept

Indonesia's new fresh-faced, star-studded House feared inept
The star-studded new House comprises singers like Anang Hermansyah, and many celebrities in the twilight of their careers in the entertainment industry.

JAKARTA - Lawmakers at the House of Representatives ended their tenure Tuesday leaving a string of appalling legacies, with the recent and most devastating being their decision to end the direct elections of regional heads.

As new House members are slated to be sworn in today, hope abounds over their willingness to improve upon the legislative performance of their predecessors, who were only able to pass 51 per cent of the 247 bills that were targeted.

All 560 lawmakers and 132 members of the Regional Representative Council (DPD) will take their oaths in a lavish inauguration ceremony that will officially kick off the five-year legislative term.

As the election winner, the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), which spent a decade functioning as an opposition party, will lead the coalition camp supporting the incoming government of president-elect Joko "Jokowi" Widodo.

The new House will also welcome 36 NasDem Party legislators in that party's House debut.

While 58 per cent of House members are new faces, doubts linger over their integrity and capacity to legislate.

The new House will have more celebrities than ever before, most of whom are in the twilight of their careers in the entertainment industry.

Singer Anang Hermansyah, soap opera actor Lucky Hakim and actress Desy Ratnasari will begin their first terms as members of the National Mandate Party (PAN).

Former TV presenter Junico Siahaan of the PDI-P and actor and dangdut singer Krisna Mukti of the National Awakening Party (PKB) will also be making the transition from entertainer to lawmaker.

Krisna, who secured a House seat from the seventh West Java electoral district, said he would give up his entertainment job, if necessary, to ensure that he performed his duties as lawmaker.

"However, if Primus Yustisio and Eko Patrio can make TV appearances during their spare time as lawmakers, it may be possible for me to remain in the industry," he said, referring to two PAN celebrities-turned-politicians who won their legislative reelection bids this year.

The inauguration ceremony will also be marred by controversy, as three graft suspects - PDI-P politicians Idham Samawi and Herdian Koosnadi and Jero Wacik of the Democratic Party - will be sworn in as lawmakers.

The General Elections Commission (KPU) recently sent a letter to President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono questioning their eligibility, but Yudhoyono never responded.

Regarding House members' legislative competence, Indonesian Forum for Budget Transparency (Fitra) investigation coordinator Uchok Sky Khadafi said that political parties should provide new lawmakers with technical assistance to bring them up to speed, particularly with respect to arranging and supervising the state budget.

"Lawmakers' lack of knowledge of state budget management will potentially put a drag on the government's performance," he said.

Center for Indonesian Legal and Policies Studies (PSHKI) researcher Ronald Rofiandri highlighted the importance of continuous assistance from political parties to help legislators improve their lawmaking abilities.

"Apart from regular briefings, political parties must support their new lawmakers by providing expertise during the deliberation of a bill," he said.

Notable newcomers in the House include Prananda Surya Paloh, the only child of NasDem founder Surya Paloh and Dave Akbarshah Fikarno, the son of Coordinating People's Welfare Minister and senior Golkar politician Agung Laksono.

Gerindra Party founder Prabowo Subianto's nephew, Aryo Djojohadikusumo, and the Golkar Party's Andika Hazrumy, the eldest son of graft convict and former Banten governor Ratu Atut Chosiyah, are also in the club of newcomers.

Gerindra legislator Ade Rezki Pratama, the youngest among the 560 new lawmakers, acknowledged the public's doubt over the aptitude of the new legislators, particularly in crafting legislation.

"I will take learning about my job seriously since I want to make significant changes," said Ade, who is a month shy of his 26th birthday.

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