[Updated at 3:05 a.m. on Thursday, Oct. 2, 2014]
Jakarta. Opponents of Joko Widodo, Indonesia’s incoming president, wasted no time ensure the House of Representatives would not be led by the president-elect’s Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle, or PDI-P, agreeing to elect leaders of key House posts just hours after the new batch of legislators was sworn in on Wednesday.
The move gave little chance for Joko’s party to expand its four-party coalition and woo members of the six-party Red-and-White coalition, or KMP, which supported losing presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto, to switch sides.
Both sides got into a heated debate, with the KMP insisting that a new set of House leaders be elected on Wednesday, while members of Joko’s coalition rejected the call and requested that the appointments should wait for another day.
“Today’s agenda is all about inauguration so please don’t expedite the election of House leaders,” PDI-P legislator Rieke Diah Pitaloka said before the start of the plenary session.
In the end with the Democratic Party, formerly undecided, deciding to stick with the KMP, the PDI-P-led bloc was not even able to propose its own candidates to stand as speakers of the House and People’s Consultative Assembly, or MPR, allowing the positions to be handed down automatically to KMP-nominated figures.
With the meeting still going on as the Jakarta Globe went to press, it appeared likely that Golkar Party treasurer Setya Novanto would be appointed the new House speaker — in spite of allegations of his involvement in several corruption cases.
To date he has only been questioned as a witness and not charged in any of those cases.
The four political parties that supported Joko — PDI-P; the National Awakening Party, or PKB; People’s Conscience Party, or Hanura; and the National Democratic Party, or NasDem — walked out amid deliberations on selecting the speaker of the House of Representatives early on Thursday. The last to leave was NasDem at around 2:40 a.m. Their exit left members of the KMP and the Democratic Party to vote.
The Democrats, in exchange for their decision to side with the KMP, were expected to get the MPR speaker’s post for their executive chairman, Syarief Hasan, and a House deputy speaker’s post for Edhie Baskoro Yudhoyono, the youngest son of Democrat chairman and outgoing President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.
The House speaker position was previously automatically handed down to the party holding the most seats at the House, but the KMP made sure that that would not be the case with the passage of the law on legislative bodies, known as the MD3 law, in July.
The Constitutional Court on Monday ruled that the change to the MD3 law was not unconstitutional, clearing the way for the KMP to take control of key positions in the House.
The newly installed House sees the Joko-hostile KMP take control of 353 of the 560 seats at the House, or 63 percent.
The KMP was also expected to seal up other key positions within the House, including for heads of oversight commissions; the budget committee, or Banggar; the legislative body, or Baleg; the household affairs committee, or BURT; the inter-parliamentary body, or BKSAP; and the ethics council.
The Democrats had earlier in the day actually considered siding with the PDI-P-led coalition, and Joko himself had said he was confident that the Democrats would indeed do so.
Yudhoyono, however, blamed the Democrats’ last-minute switch on PDI-P chairwoman Megawati Soekarnoputri’s dismissal of his approaches.
Relations between the two soured after the latter abruptly quit Megawati’s cabinet in 2004 and ran for president — having previously promised he would not do so — and defeated the incumbent.
“I have wanted to see her for so long, since 10 years ago. I have also sought to see her in the past few months, and also recently after a relatively harsh political conflict,” Yudhoyono said, referring to the recent passage of the regional elections bill, which abolishes the direct election of governors, mayors and district heads.
“From my side, I have actually wanted to see her, but look at what happens. God indeed hasn’t allowed [the meeting with Megawati] to happen.”
PDI-P secretary general Tjahjo Kumolo said his party had communicated directly with Yudhoyono, but refused to divulge what was being discussed or the outcome of the meeting.
A source inside the PDI-P said the lobbying between top PDI-P and Democrat officials took place late on Tuesday at the Sultan Hotel near the House complex, with Joko himself offering the Democrats the opportunity to join his incoming cabinet.
“But SBY wants to hear [the proposal] from Mega,” the source said.
“Mega still wouldn’t meet SBY. J.K. is lobbying Mega to agree to meet SBY,” the source said, referring to Joko’s vice president-elect, Jusuf Kalla, another member of Megawati’s old cabinet.
Although analysts have speculated that some KMP parties would switch sides in exchange for cabinet seats, that scenario failed to play out.
Ikrar Nusa Bhakti, a political analyst at the Indonesian Institute for Sciences, or LIPI, said the KMP’s eagerness to immediately set up the vote for the House speaker’s post was aimed at minimizing any chance for Joko’s coalition to persuade KMP members to switch sides.
Same old, same old
The newly inaugurated House members includes 318 new legislators and 242 re-elected ones.
But the new legislators are unlikely to bring much change to a House known more for its fractiousness, proclivity for colossal corruption, political dysfunction and unfettered absenteeism than actually getting anything done, said Zainal Arifin Mochtar, director of the Corruption Research Center at Yogyakarta’s Gadjah Mada University.
“There are no guarantees that the new House members will totally serve the public’s interest. As in the previous period, the new members will still be segmented within their own parties,” he said.
Emerson Yuntho, a researcher with Indonesia Corruption Watch, agreed, saying that the new House was as prone to corruption as ever.
“The newcomers at the House are also of questionable quality due to the political parties’ recruitment systems, which are based on closeness, loyalty and financial standing of the candidates, rather than their track record and capability,” Emerson said.
“New isn’t always better.”
Additional reporting by Carlos Paath & Markus Junianto Sihaloho