JAKARTA, Indonesia – In another blow for President-elect Joko “Jokowi” Widodo, the Constitutional Court on Monday, September 29, paved the way for Prabowo Subianto’s coalition to obtain control of the leadership of the House of Representatives.
The court rejected the judicial review filed by the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) – Jokowi’s party – against revisions to the law on legislatures (UU MD3) passed by Prabowo Subianto’s coalition a day before the July 9 presidential elections. (READ: Prabowo’s coalition moves to control legislature)
In particular, PDI-P was contesting the amendment that changed the way the leadership of the House (DPR) is chosen. It used to be automatically given to the party with the most number of seats in the DPR – the PDI-P in the case of the newly elected congress that will convene on Wednesday, October 1. But it has been revised to become an elected post.
This means the House speaker will likely come from one of the 6 parties – led by Prabowo’s Gerindra party – that passed the revisions to the law. Including the Democratic Party, they control 353 of the 560 seats in the legislature. Even without the Democrats, which have proven fickle the past few weeks, the Gerindra-led coalition of 5 parties will still control 52% of the DPR.
Constitutional, but ‘not moral’
That amendment, according to the Constitutional Court, “is not against the 1945 Constitution.”
While that’s technically correct, political analysts still criticized the court ruling, saying the revisions were a political move to hamper Jokowi’s programs.
“DPR members choosing their own leaders is not unconstitutional because we have done that before. The election winner automatically becoming House speaker is also not unconstitutional because, again, we have done that before,” political analyst Refli Harun said on MetroTV.
“The problem is the morality behind the passing of the law,” he said, explaining that there was a conflict of interest in the fact that the law was passed after parties found out how many seats they had in the DPR.
PDI-P politician Eva Kusuma Sundari previously told Rappler that their party having the House speaker position would at least “help ease and smoothen communications between DPR and the palace.”
If Prabowo’s coalition controls the leadership, the worry is that they would be able to exercise more control over the legislature and derail Jokowi’s programs.
Usep Hasan Sadikin from the Associations for Elections and Democracy (Perludem) explained Jokowi would have a harder time, but the executive branch of government would not necessarily be rendered completely ineffective.
“Yes, DPR has the power to create new laws and DPR can play an important role in selecting people to fill executive positions,” Usep said.
But as Indonesia has a presidential system, he added, the executive body still has leverage over the legislative branch. “The government can withdraw from discussions at the DPR if they don’t agree with it. The president can also continue make decisions without DPR approval if needed.”
But this would be true as long as Indonesia is under a presidential system. Prabowo’s coalition partners hinted earlier on Monday – just a few days after they ended direct local elections for mayors and governors – that they can also amend the law to get rid of direct presidential elections to return to a system where the People’s Consultative Assembly chooses the president.
“If direct presidential election only causes a stir in the society, I think it should be revoked,” National Mandate Party (PAN) secretary general Herman Kadir said, according to Tempo.co. – with a report from Jet Damazo-Santos/Rappler.com