Parliamentary watchdogs have lashed out at political parties supporting presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto over a move that will deny the party of rival Joko Widodo the leadership of the next House of Representatives.
“The recent talks that took place at the House were petty and rushed, and were not based on sound arguments,” Roy Salam, a legal and political researcher at the Indonesia Budget Center, said of the discussions to amend the 2009 law on legislatures.
The law stipulated that the post of House speaker should go to the party that won the most votes in the preceding legislative election. In 2009 it was the Democratic Party, and this year it is the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle, or PDI-P, which has been the main opposition party for the past 10 years.
However, on Tuesday a working committee of the House tasked with deliberating proposed amendments to the law passed changes that would make the post of speaker an elected one.
The six parties that supported the changes were Prabowo’s Great Indonesia Movement Party (Gerindra) and its five coalition partners: the Democratic Party, the Golkar Party, the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS), the National Mandate Party (PAN) and the United Development Party (PPP).
Those opposing were all in Joko’s camp: the PDI-P, the National Awakening Party (PKB) and the People’s Conscience Party (Hanura).
Roy, whose organization is part of the civil society coalition opposed to the changes to the 2009 law, said it was “deceitful” for a party like the Democrats, which benefited from the automatic speaker appointment in 2009, to now roll back that mechanism.
He also blasted another amendment that would make it necessary for law enforcement agencies like the Corruption Eradication Commission, or KPK, to seek presidential permission in order to investigate serving legislators.
“And strangely enough, this immunity does not extend to members of regional legislatures, so it clearly shows the corrupt and repressive thinking of the House members,” Roy said.
Other members of the coalition with the IBC include Transparency International Indonesia and Indonesia Corruption Watch.
The PDI-P, which had been expected to name Puan Maharani, the daughter of chairwoman Megawati Soekarnoputri, as the new House speaker, has lashed out at the parties the pushed the new amendments.
Megawati accused the parties, particularly the Democrats, of “strong inconsistency,” pointing to the PDI-P’s own stance back in 2009 when it agreed to let the party with the most votes get the speaker’s post.
“That was good political ethics,” she said, but added that the PDI-P’s House members would still strive to push through the policies of the new government if, as indicated by quick counts, Joko is named the winner of Wednesday’s presidential election.
“Remember the story of the elephant and the ant? It was the ant that won,” Megawati said.
Joko’s coalition, which includes House newcomer the National Democratic Party, or NasDem, will have 207 of 560 House seats when the new legislature convenes in October, with Prabowo’s coalition — effectively the opposition if Joko is confirmed as the election winner — will control 353 seats.
Siti Zuhro, a political analyst from the Indonesian Institute of Sciences, or LIPI, said it was regrettable that the House had chosen to revise the law during the election period, when the changes would undoubtedly be highly politicized.
“There have always been sudden changes after an election or before the new House or new president is inaugurated,” she said as quoted by BBC Indonesia.
“The [amendments] that they produced should not have been made for short-term interests or power. In my opinion, whatever was made or debated in the parliament was politically motivated. That goes without saying,” Siti said.
“But politicians should take into consideration the people’s feelings, the future interest of the nation and not just take into consideration the 2014-2019 period. Therefore, if an article is revised, it should be based on factors that can be accounted for so that they don’t have to be reviewed and revised again in 2019.”