Chaos over leadership of Indonesia's House of Representatives

A House of Representatives plenary session failed late on Wednesday to select its leaders after several lawmakers disrupted the selection process by intimidating the temporary speaker.

Legislator Popong Otje Djundjunan, 75, who was appointed temporary speaker for the session, decided to cease discussion after a number of legislators rushed the stage to protest her leadership.

As of 12.30 am Thursday, lawmakers remained unable to reach a decision regarding the selection of House leaders.

In spite of the small number of votes it controls in the new House, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's Democratic Party was able to play a key role in deciding the next speaker and deputy speakers in the House.

The new House was deadlocked in its effort to pick its leaders, an impasse that could only be settled by the Democratic Party deciding which side it would pick.

Despite its control of only 61 out of the House's total of 560 seats, the Democratic Party had been wooed by both the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P)-led coalition, which had nominated president-elect Joko "Jokowi" Widodo and vice president-elect Jusuf Kalla, and the Red-and-White Coalition, which endorsed the loser of the presidential race, for its support in their conflicting bids for the House speakership position.

The Democratic Party's assumption of a "neutral" stance led both coalitions to engage in intensive lobbying, which resulted in a delay in the plenary session to fill the influential House speaker position.

However, the intensive lobbying failed to break a deadlock between the Red-and-White Coalition, which wanted the election to be held late on Wednesday, and the PDI-P-led coalition, which wanted the vote to be held on Thursday.

After an eight-hour closed-door meeting, lawmaker Tjatur Sapto Edy from the National Awakening Party (PAN), with fellow lawmaker Fadli Zon from the Gerindra Party standing next to him, announced that the meeting "agreed to hold the plenary session today because the majority requested it".

Tjatur said that the option was endorsed by six factions, consisting of the five members of the Red-and-White Coalition - the Golkar Party, Gerindra, the National Mandate Party (PAN), the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) and the United Development Party (PPP) - and the Democratic Party.

Meanwhile, the PDI-P and two other parties in its coalition demanded a delay to allow further discussion on the House's newly endorsed internal regulation, which has changed the mechanism for the selection of the House's leaders as well as for the leaders of its internal bodies.

Lawmaker Aziz Syamsuddin of Golkar said that the National Awakening Party (PKB), an official member of the PDI-P led coalition, decided to abstain over endorsing an option.

Although the Democratic Party has yet to formally announce its decision, the party's support to have a vote on the House leadership signalled that the House leadership is for the PDI-P to lose.

The House's internal regulation allows for the House leadership to be elected in a "package" comprising the House speaker and the four deputy speakers, which represents different factions in the House.

The Red-and-White Coalition, which secured the majority of seats in the House, has agreed to nominate Golkar Party treasurer Setya Novanto as a candidate for the position.

As for his deputies, Gerindra has nominated Fadli Zon, the PKS' Fahri Hamzah and PAN's Zulkifli Hasan.

Meanwhile, speculation was rife that the Democratic Party would nominate Edhie "Ibas" Baskoro, Yudhoyono's youngest son, to be in the package if the party decided to join the Red-and-White Coalition.

The PDI-P-led coalition nominated Puan Maharani for the House speaker position.

Earlier in the day, the Democratic Party's acting chairman and newly elected lawmaker Syarief Hasan had expressed optimism that the party would join the PDI-P-led coalition.

Earlier, the Democratic Party was pushing for a delay in the plenary meeting picking the House leadership before finally backing down from the proposal.

A source within the PDI-P-led coalition said a deal between the PDI-P and the Democratic Party crumbled after PDI-P chairperson Megawati Soekarnoputri declined to personally meet with Yudhoyono to discuss the issue.

Planning for a Yudhoyono-Megawati meeting was one of the things that came out of a meeting between the outgoing President and Jokowi on Tuesday evening.

Jokowi acknowledged that he met with Yudhoyono at the latter's residence in Cikeas, West Java, on Tuesday night.

The president-elect, however, was tight-lipped when asked for details about the meeting.

"We discussed many issues, about the nation and the people," he said at his official residence in Menteng, Central Jakarta.

Jokowi, however, confirmed the meeting was also aimed at lobbying the Democratic Party to join his coalition in an effort to secure the House leadership.