Indonesia’s Joko Widodo rejects end to direct votes, relaxing term limit

Indonesian President Joko Widodo won a second five-year term in April, his last under current rules. (Reuters)
Updated 02 December 2019

Indonesia’s Joko Widodo rejects end to direct votes, relaxing term limit

  • Joko Widodo, who won a second five-year term in April, said his ‘position was clear in disagreeing with a three-term presidency’
  • ‘I’m a product of the post-reform constitution’

JAKARTA: Indonesian President Joko Widodo rejected on Monday proposals by some politicians and a Muslim group to amend the constitution to end direct elections for the presidency and relax term limits in the world’s third-biggest democracy.
Widodo, who won a second five-year term in April, his last under current rules, said in a Twitter message his “position was clear in disagreeing with a three-term presidency.”
Separately, he told reporters that discussions on the amendment had referred to plans for an eight-year, one-term presidency or three terms of up to 15 years in total. “It’s better not to amend,” he said.
Indonesian activists have warned the proposals would mark a setback for democracy, restored after the 1998 overthrow of dictator Suharto, who had ruled for more than 30 years.
Some politicians, including from Widodo’s own party, the Indonesian Democratic Party for Struggle (PDI-P), and coalition partners, have called for the reinstatement of a Suharto-era set of national development goals known as the Broad Guidelines of State Policy.
Under the Broad Guidelines, a People’s Consultative Assembly, or MPR — then stacked with army officials and Suharto supporters — picked the president.
“I’m a product of the post-reform constitution,” Widodo also said in his tweet. The former furniture salesman and small-town mayor is the first Indonesian president from outside the country’s political and military elite.
Since the return to democracy, the constitution has been amended four times, to separate legislative and executive powers, decentralize the government, directly elect presidents and limit leaders to two terms.
Hendrawan Supratikno, a PDI-P lawmaker, said his party rejects the idea of ending direct election of the president, but is in favor of reinstating the Broad Guidelines.
Last week, Indonesia’s largest mass Muslim organization Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) suggested the idea of having the MPR elect the president, according to its website.
Titi Anggraini, executive director of the Association for Elections and Democracy, welcomed Widodo’s rejection, saying the proposals had not been explained properly to the public.
“The president should make sure that these coalition parties are in line with his stance,” Anggraini said. “This could be a solidity test on Widodo’s political attitude.”


HK media tycoon Jimmy Lai arrested under national security law

Updated 10 August 2020

HK media tycoon Jimmy Lai arrested under national security law

  • Lai has been one of the most prominent democracy activists in the Chinese-ruled city and an ardent critic of Beijing

HONG KONG: Hong Kong media tycoon Jimmy Lai has been arrested over suspected collusion with foreign forces under the new national security law, his top aide said on Twitter, in what is the highest-profile arrest yet under the legislation.
Lai has been one of the most prominent democracy activists in the Chinese-ruled city and an ardent critic of Beijing, which imposed the sweeping new law on Hong Kong on June 30, drawing condemnation from Western countries.
The new security law punishes anything China considers subversion, secession, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces with up to life in prison.
Critics say it crushes freedoms in the semiautonomous city, while supporters say it will bring stability after prolonged pro-democracy protests last year.
“Jimmy Lai is being arrested for collusion with foreign powers at this time,” Mark Simon, a senior executive at Lai’s media company Next Digital, which publishes local tabloid Apple Daily, said early on Monday.
Police did not immediately comment.
Lai was also arrested this year on illegal assembly charges, along with other leading activists, relating to protests last year.
In an interview with Reuters in May, Lai pledged to stay in Hong Kong and continue to fight for democracy even though he expected to be one of the targets of the new legislation.