Indonesia’s parliament voted on Friday to do away with direct local elections in a move that critics say is a huge step backward for the country’s fledgling democracy. Proponents of the law change, to scrap direct elections for mayors and governors, had argued local elections had proven too costly, and were prone to conflict and corruption. The bill was backed by the coalition behind losing presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto. But critics disagreed, and questioned the timing of the bill, first proposed in 2012, just two months after the election of Joko Widodo. Titi Anggraini, director of the Association for Elections and Democracy (Perludem), said that many were upset by the law change. “I feel so disappointed. It shows how strong the opponents to democracy are. We are facing the biggest enemy of democracy.”
The president-elect, universally known as Jokowi, has spoken in favor of direct elections. And his political party, the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), led the coalition that opposed the bill. But Widodo has yet to take office and his opponents currently retain the majority in parliament. Six of nine political parties supported the law change and most are part of the coalition that backed Subianto.
“Democracy has become too expensive,” Fadli Zon, vice chairman of Subianto’s Gerindra party, recently told a forum of journalists. Zon estimated the government would save about 60 trillion rupiah or $5 billion by eliminating direct regional elections. “If the regional election is done by the regional house of representatives, it is estimated that the expenditure needed would only be the cost for tea and coffee,” he argued.
Critics say that the move will only benefit entrenched political interests.
Full Article: Indonesians lose right to directly elect governors – CNN.com.