House to Debate Restoring Regional Elections Soon

BY :YUSTINUS PAAT & MARKUS JUNIANTO SIHALOHO

JANUARY 16, 2015

Jakarta. Indonesia is one step away from either resuming direct regional elections or scrapping them again, as the House of Representatives plans to start deliberating a bill that -- at least in its current form -- would revive the practice.

Rambe Kamarul Zaman, chairman of House Commission II, which oversees political and domestic affairs, said on Friday that all 10 parties in the House had agreed to start deliberating whether to sustain an emergency measure known as a presidential regulation in lieu of law (perppu) that expired in December.

The emergency executive decree, issued last October by then-president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, restored regional elections for governors, mayors and district chiefs by superseding an law enacted by the House days prior, titled (disingenuously, opponents say) the "Regional Elections Law" that scrapped direct regional elections for sub-national executive offices in favor of legislative appointments by regional legislative councils, or DPRDs.

The Golkar Party's Rambe said all of the House's parties were likely to support debating a draft bill to sustain the perppu during a plenary session next Tuesday.

However, some parties have called for amendments to some of the perppu's provisions, Rambe said.

"Some parties propose revising up to 20 articles [in the perppu], including [parties] who originally supported the perppu," he said. However, "all parties have agreed that deliberation of the perppu should conclude before February 28."

Home Affairs Minister Tjahjo Kumolo said the government would work to accommodate the lawmakers' revisions.

Arif Wibowo, a lawmaker from the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), which favors direct regional elections, said his party did not mind amendments as long as the changes supported enacting the perppu into law.

Minister Tjahjo said the perppu needed to be ratified soon, noting that there were 204 governors, district heads and mayors whose terms end this year.

Tjahjo said his ministry had drawn up contingency plans in anticipation of the House missing its self-imposed end-February deadline. It plans to stage elections simultaneously to save time and costs.

Such changes, if implemented, would be consistent with provisions of the perppu that significantly altered the previous election system's practices.

The ministry, he continued, will issue a ministerial regulation to regional governments on the issue.

"The regulation will serve as a guideline [for regional governments] to formulate their 2015 budget proposals. We are mandating that all regional governments allocate money for regional elections," he said.

But a slow deliberation could impact the General Elections Commission's (KPU) preparedness for staging the elections.

"The perppu is for the House to deliberate. But please be quick. Because it will affect the KPU's preparation -- not just the KPU head office, but regional KPU branches as well," the minister said.

Rombe, however, warned the KPU not to make any preparations before the perppu was enacted into law.

"The KPU must not issue any policy or instruction [to regional offices]. They are not lawmakers; they carry out the law," he said. "Besides, the KPU currently has nolegal basis to make such preparations."

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