Prabowo’s coalition proposes end to direct election of president

Source – September 29, 2014
Prabowo Subianto, Hatta Rajasa and Aburizal Bakrie attend DPR session - September 26, 2014 (Tempo)
Prabowo Subianto, Hatta Rajasa and Aburizal Bakrie attend DPR session - September 26, 2014 (Tempo)

Tri Susanto Setiawan, Febriana Firdaus, Prihandoko, Jakarta – After abolishing the direct election of regional heads by the people, Prabowo Subianto’s Red and White Coalition has initiated a discourse on returning to a system by which the president is elected by the People’s Consultative Assembly (MPR, upper-house).

National Mandate Party (PAN) secretary general Herman Kadir argues that the direct election of the president by the people creates social disunity. “If direct presidential elections give rise to conflicts, I think they should be abolished”, said Kadir when contacted on Monday September 28.

Kadir has said in the past that direct elections are a Western product. According to Kadir, democracy in Indonesia is represented through the parliament. “If necessary, the president could be elected again by the MPR”, said the House of Representatives (DPR) lawmaker on September 12.

In the DPR, he once proposed an amendment to the 1945 Constitution so that the election of the president would be done through the MPR. “I was one of strongest proponents, but it got no agreement”, he said. At the time, said Kadir, other DPR members rejected the proposal because it could become a ‘blunder’. “It would be hard for us to put into practice”, said Kadir quoting his colleagues.

Hayono Isman, a member of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s Democrat Party, believes that the chances of the president again being elected by the MPR are wide open. “If the Red and White Coalition can control the DPRDs [regional legislative councils] and regional heads, they could also control the MPR. So, making an amendment [to the Constitution] would be easy”, said Isman on Saturday.

Indonesian Institute of Science (LIPI) political observer Ikrar Nusa Bakti says that Isman’s analysis makes sense. He added that the Democrats, along with the coalition of parties that backed Prabowo’s failed presidential bid, control at least 352 votes in the MPR – more that half of the 592 seats. “It’s not impossible that the mechanism for electing the president will be changed, because Prabowo knows all too well, that it would be difficult for him to be elected in a direct election by the people”, said Bakti.

Golkar Party general chairperson Aburizal Bakrie asserts that the Red and White Coalition – which is made up of Golkar, Prabowo’s Greater Indonesia Movement Party (Gerindra), the United Development Party (PPP), PAN and the Justice and Prosperity Party (PKS) – was not just formed to back the Prabowo Subianto-Hatta Rajasa ticket in the July 9 presidential elections. One of its other roles is that the coalition aims to become counter to the government.

[Translated by James Balowski.]