Should central gov’t directly appoint provincial governors? MPR Speaker Bambang Soesatyo thinks so

Indonesia’s People’s Consultative Assembly (PR) Speaker Bambang Soesatyo. Photo: Instagram/@bambang.soesatyo
Indonesia’s People’s Consultative Assembly (PR) Speaker Bambang Soesatyo. Photo: Instagram/@bambang.soesatyo

Cause for alarm for a nation with a history of authoritarian oppression? The speaker of the People’s Consultative Assembly (MPR), Bambang Soesatyo, has suggested that we do away with gubernatorial elections in favor of the central government appointing provincial leaders directly.

The Golkar party politician’s statement came after PKB Chairman Muhaimin Iskandar publicly suggested that governors be abolished altogether from the Indonesian political hierarchy. Muhaimin argued that governors are merely an extension of the central government, whose absence may not be felt as regents and mayors can communicate directly with the Ministry of Home Affairs.

The politician also argued that gubernatorial elections may divide the public — no doubt referring to the 2017 Jakarta gubernatorial elections that saw Anies Baswedan defeat incumbent Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama amid trumped up charges of blasphemy towards Islam against the latter.

Bambang, who heads an assembly of the House or Representatives (DPR) and the Regional Representative Council (DPD), has a different idea.

“Personally, myself and my colleagues [believe that] governors should be appointed by the central government,” he said yesterday, adding that people would still have the right to choose their mayors and regents.

Bambang’s statement may end up scuppering Muhaimin’s bid to revise the Regional Elections Law in order to abolish the position of governor.

Should Bambang get his way, it would represent quite a significant step back for free and fair elections in Indonesia, which the country has been striving towards since the 1998 democratic reforms. 

Before that, under President Soeharto’s 31-year authoritarian rule, regional officials were directly appointed by the central government, while the president himself was appointed by the MPR. Soeharto often handpicked military generals to lead Indonesia’s provinces.

If things stay as they are now, Indonesians will be heading to the polls in February 2024 to elect their president, legislative representatives, and regional officials simultaneously.

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