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Indonesians Protest Local Election Reforms

  • VOA News

Dozens of Indonesians have rallied against a reform proposal that would end the direct election of local and regional officials, a move they say threatens democracy in the country.

Demonstrator Anis Hidayah told a crowd near the presidential palace in Jakarta Tuesday that the legislation would be a step backwards for Indonesia.

“Friends, democracy that we wish for is from the people, by the people and for the people. When the [indirect] elections legislation is adopted, we can envision that democracy will be from the party ... Therefore, friends, this legislation is a threat [to democracy]," she said.

Protests against the legislation also took place in other areas Tuesday, such Aceh Bandung and Semarang. There have been no reports of violence or arrests associated with the rallies.

If the measure passes next week, governors, mayors and other regional and city officials would not be elected directly by the people, but by members of provincial parliaments. It would reverse reforms passed after the era of longtime dictator Suharto.

The Association of Governors and Mayors (APKASI) recently appealed for the legislation to be defeated and direct local elections to remain in place.

Donlad Faritz, an activist with Indonesian Corruption Watch, sent an open letter to President Yudhoyono recently urging him to listen to the people and veto the bill if it is passed by parliament.

"Democracy through regional elections grew during [your] era, don’t kill it at the end of your term," he said.

This bill was put forward by the Red and Blue Coalition of parties that support former presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto, who lost this year's election to President-elect Joko Widodo. Supporters say the change will help combat corruption at the local level.

This report was produced in collaboration with the VOA Indonesian service.