Yudhoyono bids to save direct elections

Yudhoyono bids to save direct elections
Former Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

JAKARTA - 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 favour of the mechanism.

"This 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.

"We 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 "Plan 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.

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