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Indonesian People to Choose Next President, Vice President - 2002-08-10


Indonesia's People's Consultative Assembly has decided the country will have direct presidential elections. The assembly also voted down a proposal to implement Islamic law. Indonesia's highest legislative body declares that from now on, the country's president and vice-president will be chosen by the people. The decision to amend Indonesia's Constitution to allow direct president elections comes as little surprise. The parties that dominate the People's Consultative Assembly said earlier in the week that they favored the amendment. That decision might mean more political stability for Indonesia. Previously, the Constitution dictated that the 700 member assembly elected the president and the vice president. Last year, Vice President Megawati Sukarnoputri was elevated to the presidency, after lawmakers turned against former President Abdurrahman Wahid. Charges that Mr. Wahid was corrupt were never proven, but for months, the government was at a virtual standstill during the drawn out impeachment process against him. He served just 19 months in office.

Andrew Ellis, of the National Democratic Institute, a U.S. government-funded organization that supports democratic reform, says direct presidential elections would be a step forward for Indonesia. "Indonesia will have decided to move to a presidential system, separation of powers, unitary state Constitution," Mr. Ellis said. " And in doing so, that's the pattern that exists not only in the U.S., but in the Philippines and much of South America. It's a known and accepted method of running a democratic state. And while it may have problems, it's certainly workable."

Lawmakers also voted against including a clause in Indonesia's Constitution calling for Islamic, or sharia law across the country. That, too, comes as little surprise, given that Indonesia's largest Islamic organizations opposed its implementation. The People's Consultative Assembly has met for the past 10 days to hammer out various changes to Indonesia's political system.

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