Prabowo’s coalition moves to control legislature

Jet Damazo-Santos
Joko Widodo may appear to be winning, but parties supporting Prabowo Subianto have changed rules in picking the House Speaker. It will now be an elected post in the legislature they dominate

INDONESIA'S LEGISLATURE. Prabowo Subianto's coalition controls 2/3 the House of Representatives. File photo by EPA

JAKARTA, Indonesia – As Indonesia waits to see whether Jakarta Governor Joko Widodo will indeed be declared Indonesia’s new president later this month, allies of his rival have begun to maneuver to take control of the legislature.

A day before the election, the 6 political parties supporting former general Prabowo Subianto created a so-called permanent coalition in the House of Representatives (DPR) and passed amendments to the 2009 law on legislatures.

A key amendment was changing the way the leadership of the DPR is chosen. It used to be automatically given to the party with the most number of seats in the DPR, but will now instead be an elected post.  

With 109 seats in the DPR, Jokowi’s Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) was expecting to get the House Speaker position when the new congress is convened in October.

However, the PDI-P-led coalition of 4 parties is the minority in the new DPR. Prabowo’s party Gerindra leads a faction of 6 parties dominating 353 of the 560 seats in the legislature. This means they have the numbers needed to choose the House leadership and possibly derail Jokowi’s programs in case he is declared president. 

“We are so disappointed with some political parties that endorsed the changes,” PDI-P politician Eva Kusuma Sundari told Rappler on Thursday, July 10.  

Having the Speaker position “should help ease and smoothen communications between DPR and the palace,” she said.

Eva said NGOs and activists are planning to contest the amendments at Indonesia’s Constitutional Court. However, she added that politics is very dynamic and there’s a chance alignments may change.

“We expect changes, each party will restructure their leadership,” she said, adding that lawmakers’ positions will be influenced by their leaders.

Eva was hinting that Golkar Party, the second largest faction in DPR with 91 seats and currently part of Gerindra’s coalition, might change sides. Jokowi’s running mate, Jusuf Kalla, is from Golkar and talk has been rife that the party’s current chair, businessman-turned-politician Aburizal Bakrie, will lose leadership of the party.

“We believe Pak Kalla has the knowledge, skills, and experience in lobbying senior leaders across political parties,” she added.

In an interview with foreign media on Thursday, a day after both he and Prabowo claimed victory in Indonesia’s presidential raceJokowi said he did not expect party politics in DPR to be an issue.

When I was [mayor of] Solo, we had a strong party making up 38% of the local legislature, but they would still lose during voting,” he said.  

“In Jakarta [local legislature], PDI-P only has 11%, but there are no problems. It’s just about communication, political communication.” 

Watch this report below.