09/26/2014, 00.00
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Jakarta, the outgoing parliament scraps direct election of governors and mayors

by Mathias Hariyadi
A coup for the outgoing assembly, a few days ahead of its dissolution. After 10 hours of discussions, 226 deputies voted in favor of the law proposed by the Ministry of Interior. Now local authorities will be elected by local parliaments (and parties). Incoming President Widodo says it is a "huge step backward" for democracy in the country.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) - The outgoing Indonesian parliament, a few days ahead of the ned of its term, has approved a law that scraps the direct election of governors and mayors in local elections. At the end of a 10 hour debate, 226 deputies voted in favor of amending the current electoral system, which provides for the "direct" election of the directors by the citizens. In contrast, the power of choice will be entrusted to the local parliaments and parties that control them.

The coup by the outgoing assembly has angered activists and civil society, which have long been protesting against the controversial bill. Critics say it is a blow to the fledgling democracy after the fall of dictator Suharto in 1988, at the conclusion of three decades of authoritarian rule.

Analysts and local political experts point out that, with in giving the bill the go-ahead, deputies wanted to undermine the new president-elect Joko "Jokowi" Widodo, who will shortly take office. He is seen as a political outsider rising to the highest office of the State from that of mayor and governor (Jakarta), through direct election and popular consensus.

Speaking on the matter, the Head of State-elect termed the vote a "huge step backward" for democracy in the country. He added that the local authorities elected by the people have a "moral obligation" to their voters, because "they were chosen."

The system used so far was introduced in 2005, precisely to allow new types of policy and administration to emerge, even without support of the elite.

The bill approved today was proposed by the Ministry of Interior and will help - according to its authors - minimize the risk of selling votes, for cash or other benefits; at the same time, it aims to reduce the government's financial budget. It provides for the popular election of regional, district and provincial representatives; it will then fall to these assemblies to choose the district heads, mayors and governors "indirectly", excluding citizens from voting.

Indonesian civil society has reacted with outrage and indignation at the proposal, accusing the political class of "dirty politicking," a few weeks of ahead of the official installation of the new President Joko Widodo "Jokowi", on October 28. It should be emphasized that the proposed electoral reform is advanced and strongly supported by the "Red and White" coalition whose candidate Prabowo Subianto was defeated in the race for the presidency in July.

At the time of the vote, activists and ordinary citizens gathered outside Parliament burning tires and chanting slogans in protest against the new law. The hashtag "Rest in peace, democracy" is currently trending among Twitter users in Indonesia


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