The ugly process by which the House of Representatives reached a decision in the early hours of Friday to pass a bill that takes away from the people the right to vote for regional heads and gives it instead to regional legislatures was a blatant display of politicians riding rough-shod over the people’s will.
At the heart of this massive setback to democracy is the poorly named Democratic Party, whose much-touted support for keeping direct elections was half-hearted at best and a cynical face-saving strategy at worst, given that the bill was drafted by the government of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, the Democrat chairman.
It was meant to be a simple vote: yea or nay for passing the bill. Instead, the Democrats threw in a third option: keep direct elections but tack on a 10-point list for streamlining local polls. Because the Democrats control 148 of 560 House seats and refused to budge from their position, the parties that genuinely wanted to keep direct elections had no choice but to side with them.
And then the Democrats, just like that, walked out of the plenary session, instantly handing victory to the parties in support of the bill and in one fell swoop throwing the country’s democratic system back into the dark ages of the New Order regime.
Taking away the people’s right to choose their leaders is a blatant betrayal of public trust and sidelines them from the democratic process altogether, rendering all the progress and costs of the last 10 years futile.
Indonesia has returned to a system of elitist democracy controlled by a handful of corrupt politicians serving only their own interests.
The legislation can still be challenged through a judicial review at the Constitutional Court, which has shown it is of sounder mind than the House.