Newly elected People's Consultative Assembly (MPR) Speaker Bambang Soesatyo, left, takes the oath, accompanied by his nine deputies at the national legislative complex in Jakarta on Thursday. (B1 Photo/Ruht Semiono)

With Allies in Control of National Legislature, Jokowi All Set for Smooth Transition


OCTOBER 04, 2019

Jakarta. The unanimous election of Golkar politician Bambang Soesatyo as speaker of the People's Consultative Assembly, or MPR, on Thursday night sealed a commanding victory for President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo's coalition in the national legislature, paving the way for a smooth start to his second term later his month.

The only resistance came from Prabowo Subianto's opposition Great Indonesia Movement Party (Gerindra), which insisted that its secretary general, Ahmad Muzani, lead the MPR – Indonesia's highest lawmaking body. But they backed down when realizing that it was a wasteful attempt, as eight other parties were already backing Bambang.

Not to mention another crucial vote in the Regional Legislative Council (DPD), a senatorial second chamber that, along with the House of Representatives, forms the MPR.

It was agreed during the plenary session that the new MPR speaker would be elected by the representatives of the nine political parties that won seats in the House in this year's legislative election, and one DPD representative. Representing the DPD was Fadel Muhammad, a long-time Golkar man before becoming senator for Gorontalo Province.

Puan Maharani made history two days earlier by becoming the first woman to lead the House. She was appointed by her mother's Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), which enjoyed this luxury courtesy of having won most seats in the April election.

The ruling coalition – comprised of the PDI-P, Golkar, National Democratic Party (NasDem), National Awakening Party (PKB) and United Development Party (PPP) –controls 349 of the 575 seats in the House.

President Joko Widodo shakes hands with lawmaker Abdul Wahab Dalimunthe, who presided over the first plenary session of the House of Representatives before the inauguration of members for the 2019-2024 term on Tuesday. (Antara Photo/M Risyal Hidayat)
President Joko Widodo shakes hands with lawmaker Abdul Wahab Dalimunthe, who presided over the first plenary session of the House of Representatives before the inauguration of members for the 2019-2024 term on Tuesday. (Antara Photo/M Risyal Hidayat)

While a strong coalition seems no longer relevant in the MPR, it remains true for the House, where Jokowi will fight for a more ambitious economic agenda and infrastructure financing, and his bold plan to move the nation's capital to East Kalimantan.

He also needs House approval for appointing the attorney general and national police chief.

Thorny Issues

He will also need all the help he can muster in the next two weeks leading up to his inauguration, as major recent developments seemed to go against him.

Widespread unrest in Papua, triggered by unverified reports of racial abuse against Papuan students in East Java, pose a threat to national sovereignty and territorial integrity to an extent never seen by previous presidents in the post-Sukarno era.

It also undermined extra efforts he had made in the country's two easternmost provinces, where his government has pumped in trillions of rupiah to build basic infrastructure and ensure equal prices of subsidized fuel compared with other regions.

Several people were killed in the unrest, prompting thousands of residents to request evacuation, primarily from the restive Wamena district in Papua Province. 

With no signs of an immediate end to the Papua conflict, the amended Law on the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) came as another headache for Jokowi, as it sparked nationwide protests and left two students dead in Southeast Sulawesi. In Jakarta, the rallies often lasted until after midnight, involving violent mobs fighting riot police.

Chief Security Minister Wiranto said there was evidence that the nighttime violence displacing peaceful daytime protests by students was aimed at occupying the national legislative complex and preventing Jokowi from being sworn in for his second term.

Police recently arrested 10 people accused of illegal possession of explosives and seized "29 real bombs, not just Molotov cocktails" from a key suspect, who is a lecturer at state-run Bogor Agricultural University (IPB). Police said the suspects planned to use the improvised explosive devices at another rally involving the so-called Mujahid 212 to trigger widespread unrest and foil the upcoming presidential inauguration.

The Mujahid 212 rally proceeded without serious incident in the capital on Saturday amid a massive security presence, which prevented rally participants from approaching the State Palace.

Nearly 1,500 people, including high-school students, have been arrested during the weeklong rallies that started on Sept. 24. At least 380 of them have been declared suspects in various crimes, including public violence, vandalism, attacking law enforcers and discrediting the police on social media. Almost half of them remain in custody.

The country's proposed new criminal code had also become the subject of public derision in recent weeks over among many others, provisions seeking to criminalize homeless people, extramarital sex and owners of domesticated birds failing to keep them on their properties. Jokowi had to ask the House to postpone its deliberations of the law, which was proposed by his government, amid mounting outrage.

His administration also saw the worst forest fires in Sumatra and Kalimantan in four years, which disrupted air traffic in the region and triggered protests from neighboring Malaysia and Singapore, after they were blanketed in haze that posed serious health risks.

DPD Within Control 

Surrounded by all these thorny issues, Jokowi needed his allies to command all chambers of the national legislature for a smooth transition into another five-year term.

To his relief, the DPD is now led by La Nyalla Mattalitti, an enemy turned ally. The East Java senator was a trusted ally of Prabowo in the 2014 presidential election, but the two had a fallout last year after Gerindra decided not to nominate him for the East Java gubernatorial election. He also accused Prabowo of demanding money from him in return for the nomination. 

La Nyalla sided with Jokowi and apologized "for making slanderous remarks" against the president prior to the 2014 election.

Final Cabinet Plenary

Jokowi led the last plenary session of his current cabinet on Thursday, when he also thanked all his key aides for their hard work.

"We have accomplished a lot over the past five years, despite many limitations, and a lot more must be accomplished," he said at the State Palace.

Th president said his government had laid "a new foundation" on infrastructure development covering Indonesia as a whole, rather than an emphasis mainly on Java, as previous governments had done.

"We also have started massive structural reforms to boost our competitiveness by streamlining the bureaucracy," he said. "I would like to convey my sincere gratitude to all ministers and heads of state agencies for your hard work over the past five years, helping me and Mr. Jusuf Kalla execute our priority programs."