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Twitter Users Proclaim the Death of Indonesia's Democracy as Lawmakers Scrap Direct Voting of Regional Assemblies

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A stencil art by @nobodycorp rejecting indirect regional elections

In a move that has provoked public outrage, the Indonesian House of Representatives has voted to scrap direct elections of the head of regional assemblies, instead opting for the Regional House of Representatives (DPRD) to lead the selection process.

After the fall of authoritarian ruler Suharto in 1998, Indonesia has been struggling to become a fully democratic country. Suharto was Indonesia's president for more than three decades. The post-Suharto era was supposed to be the country's transition towards democracy, but it was continually hampered by those who sympathized with the “old ways”. Nevertheless, there were some reforms in governance like the direct election process, which was hailed for upholding transparency and promoting citizen participation in politics.

One of the leaders produced under this mechanism was Jokowi, a furniture entrepreneur who became mayor of Solo City, governor of Jakarta, and now president of Indonesia.

But regional lawmakers argued that direct election is costly. If Indonesia will revert back to DPRD election, they claimed that it will generate savings of up to 2.9 billion US dollars. What they forgot to mention is that this institution is also notorious for being a den of corruption. According to the government agency Corruption Eradication Committee (KPK), there are 3,600 regional house members who are currently linked to various corruption cases. KPK fears that the DPRD election will create a systematic corruption mechanism.

It was reported that direct elections won't be annulled in four special regions, namely Aceh, Jakarta, Yogyakarta, and Papua.

News of the legislative plenary debate and voting immediately enraged many citizens who are supportive of direct election mechanism. Since nearly all Indonesian provinces are rich in natural resources, selecting the right leaders who will be able to protect the interest of the population is deemed crucial by many.

There are also suspicions that the partymates of defeated presidential candidate Prabowo, who control the majority of seats in parliament, maneuvered to push the voting in favor of the bill. Prabowo has contested the results of the presidential elections.

Twitter users popularized the hashtags #RIPDemokrasi and #ShameOnYouSBY to express displeasure over the decision of the House and against outgoing President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (SBY):

Such an emotional morning, democracy has been gangbanged.

Facebook was also filled with protest messages against the House decision. Facebook user Bhimanto Suwastoyo appealed to voters to reject politicians who supported the scrapping of the direct election process:

THIS IS IT. Remember those lawmakers and parties voting for indirect elections and don't vote for them next time!

The matter will be forwarded to the Supreme Court for judicial review. Related to this, a petition was drafted urging the Supreme Court to annul the lawmakers’ decision.

Democratic Party politician Sutan Bhatoegana claimed that SBY requested for his party members to be “all out” in defending the people's right; however, the message was misunderstood as a command to “walk out” ahead of the vote counting. It was the walk out of members of the ruling party that swayed the vote in favor of the scrapping of direct elections.

Twiter user Idetopia poked fun at the party's choice to blame an autocorrect failure:

(Democratic) Party's internal investigation: faulty Shiftkey, intended to type “all-out” but instead typed “walk-out”

Clarifying the allegation of misreading SBY's text, Democratic Party's Executive Director Syarief Hasan said there was no error in SBY's message.

Idetopia concludes:

It didn't matter who triggered the walkout. The fact is that he (SBY) and his party has caused our democracy to revert 10 years (into the past).

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