Yudhoyono to overturn Bill scrapping direct provincial polls

Yudhoyono to overturn Bill scrapping direct provincial polls
A file photo of Indonesia's President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono speaking on security and conflict resolution at George Washington University on September 26, 2014 in Washington, DC.

INDONESIA - In a bid to overturn last week's parliamentary vote to scrap direct local elections in Indonesia, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has said he would sign the new law - but would immediately issue an emergency decree to effectively cancel the law.

The move, allowed in the Indonesian system, will throw the law back to Parliament and buy the next administration time to win greater support in the House to retain direct elections for provincial governors, regents and city mayors.

Indonesia's Constitution gives the President the right to issue such a rule in lieu of law - known as a perppu in short - when the country is in an emergency.

The next Parliament will have to vote on whether to fully reject or accept the regulation in the coming months.

"This is politics. I am taking a risk and I have made a decision to issue a perppu," Dr Yudhoyono told reporters yesterday. "It will be up to our Parliament whether to support the perppu. If Parliament also listens to the people's aspirations, direct elections will be what we will have in the next five years."

He also called his ministers in charge of political and security matters to a meeting yesterday to discuss details in drafting the perppu.

The passage of the law scrapping direct local elections last Friday had also raised fears of plans by defeated presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto's coalition to roll back direct presidential elections in Indonesia.

Although analysts say this is not likely to happen, the current situation signals bad faith between winners and losers, which will make the task of governing much harder.

President-elect Joko Widodo welcomed the decree, saying this was, after all, what most people wanted. "It is good. The people's political rights are heard and appreciated," Mr Joko told reporters at his office in Jakarta yesterday.

Mr Ali Nurdin, a political analyst at Mathla'ul Anwar University, said the decree is a temporary answer to the massive and growing public opposition to the outgoing Parliament's vote to let provincial governors, mayors, and regents across Indonesia be elected by their respective local assemblies.

"President SBY clearly does not want to be remembered as the leader who killed direct elections. We should see Parliament holding a session for this perppu in two to three months," Mr Ali told The Straits Times.

He said the fate of this session will rest on how much more support Mr Joko's camp can get to vote out the opposition camp's decision.

Mr Joko's coalition will control 37 per cent of the seats in the new Parliament, which will be sworn in today, while Dr Yudhoyono's Democratic Party, which said it would stay in the middle and vote selectively on issues, has 10 per cent.

The situation in Indonesia right now could be called an emergency, Mr Ali said, citing the possibility of unstable security due to massive public opposition against the controversial Bill.

This article was first published on October 1, 2014.
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