12/17/2015, 00.00
INDONESIA
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Speaker of Parliament resigns after found guilty of taking bribes

by Mathias Hariyadi
Setya Novanto, member of the opposition, was in office since October 2014. He took bribes from US mining giant Freeport, which extracts gold and copper, in exchange for contracts. Criticized by the public and charged by the Ministry of Energy and Justice, Novarto featured in Donald Trump’s election campaign.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) - Accused of violation of parliament’s code of ethics and having rigged mining contracts, Setya Novanto, Speaker of the Indonesian Parliament resigned today. For weeks his ambiguous attitude and accusations of corruption from the Ministry of Justice had sparked popular protests, with society calling for his resignation.

Novanto, businessman and treasurer of opposition party Golkar, was elected Speaker of parliament in October 2014. His resignation came on the eve of the pronouncement of the Supervisory Body, which had opened an inquiry against the politician.

Energy Minister Sudirman Sidwas the first to reveal a system of bribes between Novanto, the oil tycoon Mohammed Reza Chalid and Maroef Sjamsoeddin, director of US mining giant Freeport. Novanto promised the extension of contracts for the extraction of gold and copper in exchange for compensation. After claiming his innocence and rejected all charges, the Speaker of the House finally admitted his guilt and apologized in public.

A few months ago Novanto made headlines in his appearance in the election campaign of Donald Trump, during a visit to the United States. Indonesian President Joko Widodo said he "appreciated the decision to resign", ensuring that he has no personal problem with Novanto and that his setback will not affect the relations between the government and the parliament.

Choosing a successor to Setya Novanto, will be complex. As the winner of the 2014 elections, Widodo’s party, the Indonesian Democratic Party Struggle (PDIP), should have taken over the position of Speaker of parliament last year already.  A few months before the polls the opposition parties, however enacted a law (UU MD3 Year 2014) ousting members of the PDIP from leading the chamber.

Now that Novarto has resigned, PDIP leaders claim that the position should return to the victorious party. TB Hasanuddin, of the PDIP, says: "Everyone knows that the UU MD3 is a legal product designed by the defeated, a trick orchestrated by political parties just before the end of their term of office in 2014. Only members of the winning party should be eligible to be Speaker of Parliament. "

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