The People's Consultative Assembly in session at the parliament in Jakarta on Friday. (Antara Photo/Sigid Kurniawan)

Revival of State Policy Guidelines May Tip Power Balance in Parliament


AUGUST 19, 2019

Jakarta. A reinstatement of State Policy Guidelines, or GBHN, will give political parties the upper hand in the People's Consultative Assembly, or MPR, undermine President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo's position in it and cripple direct presidential elections, politicians and analysts have warned. 

"With a GBHN, the president will not be able to make campaign promises anymore," Vice President Jusuf Kalla, also a senior member of the Golkar Party, the second-largest party in the House of Representatives, said on Sunday.   

Following a constitutional amendment in 1999, the MPR, which comprises the House of Representatives (DPR) and the Regional Representatives Council (DPD), lost its position as a proxy of the people in parliament.

The amendment stripped the MPR's power to elect or impeach presidents and dictate the content of the GBHN. The assembly only retained its power to amend the constitution. 

The ruling Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) recently floated the idea to reinstate the MPR's position as the highest governing body in the land, which will allow it to write the GBHN and – so it claims – ensure a more consistent development plan for Indonesia. 

"Government programs will be contained in the GBHN, to be written by the MPR. The president, as head of government, will be the executor of the programs," Kalla said. 

Arif Susanto, a political analyst at the Exposit Strategic think-tank, said a revival of the GBHN will sideline the current national development planning system, which allows for more input from the people. 

"Improving development plans is far more urgent than amending the 1945 Constitution only to restore the power of the political elites over the direction of the government," Arif said. 

Indonesia's direct presidential election has had a big role in stabilizing political situation in the country, creating checks and balances between executive and legislative powers. The return of the GBHN would tip the balance toward the political parties, Arif said. 

"[The president] would be put under more pressure if the MPR were given the authority to dictate terms to the president through the GBHN," Arif, who is also a lecturer at Paramadina University in Jakarta, said.

MPR chairman Zulkifli Hasan, however, said some factions in the DPR and DPD are in favor of restoring the assembly's authority to set the guidelines. 

"Every legislation put forward by the House of Representatives and the government should refer to a GBHN that has been determined by the MPR," Zulkifli said. 

Zulkifli said the current assembly will not be able to make any more constitutional amendments since their term will end in October. It can only recommend it to the incoming members of the assembly. 

"The recommendation will be complemented with an in-depth study and suggestions on which articles need to be revised," Zulkifli said. 

Prabowo Subianto, the chairman of the Great Indonesia Movement Party (Gerindra) and the loser in the last presidential election, has said he supported the plan to amend the 1945 Constitution and reinstate the GBHN.

"Gerindra has always recommended a return to the original 1945 Constitution. The amendment [to reinstate the GBHN] is not a problem for us, it will bring us a step closer toward that goal," Prabowo said over the weekend.