Indonesia scraps regional elections

THE Indonesian parliament has scrapped direct elections for regional governors and mayors in a move widely seen as a blow to President-elect Joko Widodo.

Mr Widodo, himself a directly-elected governor, called the vote a “big step back” for democracy.

The system was introduced in 2005 in a bid to allow new politicians to emerge, not linked to the old political elite.

But its opponents argue direct elections are too costly and have in many cases led to corruption.

Mr Widodo’s opponents have a majority in the national parliament.

The Bill was passed early on Friday after a heated debate that lasted for more than 10 hours.

Pro-democracy activists demonstrated against the Bill by burning tyres outside parliament in Jakarta.

Opponents lost a large bloc of support when the governing Democratic Party, which supports direct elections, walked out after conditions they had demanded could not be agreed on.

The Bill stipulates that mayors, provincial governors and district heads will now be chosen by local parliaments, as they were prior to 2005.

The president will continue to be directly elected.

Ahead of the vote, Mr Widodo — who is known as Jokowi — said: “Directly elected leaders have a moral obligation to the people. They have to look after the people, because they were chosen by the people.”

Mr Widodo, who won the presidency in July, entered politics by being directly elected as a local mayor. He then went on to run for the position of Jakarta’s governor, winning a resounding victory in 2012.

His election as president was seen as heralding a new era for Indonesia, where leaders have generally been drawn from the military and political elite.