As Indonesia’s departing president, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, spoke last month in the United States about the importance of public participation in politics, the party he leads was working to deprive Indonesians of their right to vote directly for their district leaders or mayors. The move was an attempt by Jakarta’s old guard, whose candidate lost the last national elections in July, to reassert itself in the face of a new breed of politician: competent local administrators who can appeal directly to voters rather than bend to the whims and corrupt interests of their political parties. That generational clash — between candidates whose politics were shaped during the 32 years Suharto held power and those who have come of age professionally since his authoritarian rule ended in 1998 — was the central narrative of the presidential election. In the old guard’s corner was Prabowo Subianto, a former general and son-in-law of Suharto who promised strong-arm government and glory for Indonesia. In the reformist corner was Joko Widodo, a poor-boy-made-good figure and former mayor of Jakarta, who spoke quietly of serving the people. Mr. Joko’s “political outsider” narrative won narrowly, and Mr. Prabowo did not give up easily; he unsuccessfully challenged the result in court, and has never admitted defeat or congratulated his opponent, who takes office Oct. 20.
Still smarting from his loss to a relative nobody, Mr. Prabowo and his supporters whipped the departing Parliament into passing a bill that gave control over the most important parliamentary offices to the largest coalition in the chamber (Mr. Prabowo’s) rather than the largest party (Mr. Joko’s). Then they set about dismantling direct elections of district heads or mayors, as well as those of provincial governors.
The new law charges district and provincial parliaments with choosing these leaders. This works well for Mr. Prabowo’s coalition, which controls a majority of seats in 28 of the 30 provincial governments that are to use the new system. But it works extremely badly for Indonesian democracy.
Full Article: Sore Losers Spite Indonesia’s Democracy – NYTimes.com.