On Friday, September 26 2014, I woke up to a major uproar on Facebook. Dewan Perwakilan Rakyat (DPR), Indonesian Parliament had voted to remove direct election of Governors and Mayors and return the selection to the regional parliament. The people were outraged. Indonesian democracy had taken a backward step.
In Indonesia, direct election of the President and regional heads are a new thing. After decades of ‘pseudo’ democracy under the Soeharto regime, the reformation era started in 1998. Even though the people directly elected parliament members since the upstart, Direct Presidential Election did not start until 2004 and direct Head of Region Election in 2005. These were major breakthroughs for Indonesian democracy. DPR majority’s move to regain control of selecting regional heads raised many questions and speculations from Indonesians, political experts and regular people alike.
It has been widely suspected that this move is a tactic to undermine the new President Elect, Joko Widodo. Born in the slums of Central Java, Joko Widodo is going to be the first Indonesian President who never held a governmental or military position during the Soeharto regime. I wrote about him when he was elected as the Governor of Jakarta 2 years ago. His opponent was Prabowo Subianto, a billionare, a General from the Soeharto era with kidnapping human rights scandals and Soeharto’s ex-son in law. Subianto’s response to his loss made many frowned and shook head, including those who voted him. Subianto held victory parties and religious events. He then contested his loss to the Constitutional Court. He claimed that a percentage of vote results are invalid due to incompetence of the Election Bureau. While building his case against the Election Bureau, he uploaded a video on YouTube inviting his supporters to gather in small numbers in their homes and wait for the next ‘move.’ I am sure many people regretted voting for him. In the end the Court shot him down due to insufficient proof. Interestingly, even if all of the ‘botched’ votes were added to his vote results, Subianto still would not win.
(Note: I was going to write in depth about this Presidential Election drama which is reminiscent of Bush-Gore, but I view this Head of Region issue is more pertinent. FYI, Prabowo Subianto hired Rob Allyn, black campaign consultant for Bush.)
Actually, I am surprised that the election results came out very close. I am surprised that anybody even voted for him. He seems to have a personal agenda that does not benefit the people and the coalition that supported him, Red White Coalition are filled with many scary politicians. His vice president, Hatta Rajasa are alleged to have deep ties with the oil mafia and used his power to get his son out of a manslaughter case. Another one of his supporter is the Chairman of the Golkar Party, Aburizal Bakrie of Bakrie conglomerates, which has yet to pay 80% of around $200+ million dollars of compensation to the victim of Lapindo mud disaster. Subianto also has Muslim conservatives, who are pro Muslim law integration, riding on his coattails. I am not saying Widodo’s political supporters do not have an agenda, but Subianto’s supporters’ agenda seems malicious and greedy.
Sure enough, they did not stop. All but 11 DPR members who belong to the Red White Coalition voted for indirect election. The goal is to keep power in their hands and their backers. The enforcement of Joko Widodo’s policies can be easily undermined by the DPR selected governors and mayors to profit the Red White Coalition, as their loyalty does not lie with the people but with their ‘sponsors’. The elites are sinking their claws in, trying to hold on to their interests and riches from being swept away by the current of democracy. I mean, why else they wanted the regress?
The majority claimed that money politics have plagued the elections, where candidates buy votes with money and gifts. They argue that having the Regional Parliament selecting regional heads will eliminate this practice. However, eliminating regional election instead of enforcing the law more rigorously is counter productive. They are not shy that this reason is only for show. Here is a quote from Rindhoko, a Gerindra politician (Subianto’s party) from Kompas.com:
“Rakyat harus diberi kesempatan untuk revolusi mental untuk menghapus money politic. Kalau ada money politic ya di DPRD saja.”
“The people have to be given a chance to be revolutionized mentally in order to erase money politics. If there is money politic, keep it in the Regional Department.”
Like I said, the practice will be counter-productive. It will further encourage corruption within the entire government body.
So where does Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, the first people elected, anti-corruption president stand? Famed to be pro-democracy, the Partai Demokrat (Democrat Party) chairman announced that he does not support the indirect election. However, during voting 142 out of 148 Partai Demokrat (PD) Parliament member had walked out. Their reason was because a common ground cannot be reached on 1 of the 10 requirements of direct election which PD was lobbying for. There was a rumor that the instruction to walk out directly came from Yudhoyono himself, whom was in Washington D.C. at that time. If only the walk out did not happen, there would still be a chance for direct election to continue. Indonesian netizens were enraged.. #ShameonyouSBY became world’s number one twitter trending topic. Multiple SBY shaming memes are created. At his end of presidency, Yudhoyono had gained the title he wished he can shed, ‘the Father of Indirect Election.’
On his twitter account, Yudhoyono responded that his heart is heavy to sign the legislation. Yet, it is all too late. Even though he did not sign the legislation, it will become a law in 30 days after the vote. He was reported to have contacted the Chief of the Constitutional Court to see what can be done to block the legislation, but it is all too late for him. Whatever he did and did not do had assisted the Red White Coalition. Everything he will do from now on will be viewed as a great ass saving act. Here you go Mr. President, a song to cheer you up.
What is our hope? I hope that a case will be built by competent people and submitted to the Constitutional Court. I hope that it will be declared unconstitutional. My hope is pinned on Joko Widodo to win his struggle against his opponents and make this country better politically, economically and socially. I am one but a Christian Chinese woman minority in this country, but I hope what I write will tell the world about our democracy crisis. I call on all Indonesians who are pro direct election to follow President Elect, Joko Widodo’s urge to remember parties and politicians whom support indirect election We need to make sure that they will never be elected and betray us again. If all fails, maybe it will be the end of democracy that was just budding in Indonesia, the third biggest democratic country in the world, and the biggest democratic country with Muslim majority.