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A telling silence

Jakarta Post Editorial - April 5, 2024

Jakarta – The crucial House of Representatives plenary session on Thursday was nearly devoid of yells and interruptions.

Less than 190 of the body's 575 seats were filled, although House Speaker Puan Maharani said in her opening remarks that 290 lawmakers had signed in as present.

Such quiet is strange, even suspicious, considering the heated debate among politicians over the past few weeks regarding the legitimacy of the February general election.

A faction of political bigwigs had been insisting that the House launch an investigation into what they called a large-scale abuse of power on the part of the government in favor of then-presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto and his running mate Gibran Rakabuming Raka, respectively the defense minister and the eldest son of President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo.

So where were the proponents of the initiative? Perhaps they were among the many who were not in attendance, or maybe they were just too afraid to speak up.

Hopes had been high that the House would decide at the plenary session to investigate the executive's alleged efforts to sway the election at the expense of presidential candidates Anies Baswedan and Ganjar Pranowo. With the legislature entering a five-week recess today, the politicians supporting the inquiry may well have lost their chance.

The Constitutional Court is now hearing election dispute motions filed by Anies and Ganjar. The panel of justices, which includes Jokowi's brother-in-law Anwar Usman, who played a central role in carving out an exception to candidate age restrictions that allowed Gibran to run for vice president, is obligated to announce its final and binding decision by April 22.

By the time lawmakers return from recess on May 13, the court may have upheld the Prabowo-Gibran victory and the political party bosses may have reached an amicable settlement to their dispute under the justification of national unity. The political landscape is certain to change over the next five weeks.

It would be naive to think lawmakers were unaware of this. Their reticence at Thursday's plenary session shows that the House has lost its steam in the effort to investigate the election irregularities.

Unsurprisingly, Gerindra Party lawmaker Habiburokhman said there would be no House inquiry on the alleged electoral interference. "Case closed, right? God willing, the investigation will not materialize," he said.

Puan, meanwhile, nodded in acknowledgement when asked about the prospect of a House investigation. The Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) deputy chairwoman said in her speech that the Constitutional Court was the right forum to settle election disputes.

The public must be aware of the endemic wheeling and dealing among political elites on nearly every issue. Just when the PDI-P was opening talks on the House inquiry, calls emerged for the 2014 Legislative Institutions (MD3) Law to be amended in a way that could deny the PDI-P the House speakership after the change of government. The plan recalled a similar move 10 years ago that eventually cost the PDI-P the speaker post even though it had come out on top in the legislative election.

The talk about revising the MD3 Law has since ebbed, as have the House inquiry demands, at least for now. PDI-P secretary general Hasto Kristiyanto said the party had been persistently demanding the House inquiry and needed the right opportunity to make it happen.

There have been reports of efforts to undermine the House's bid to launch the inquiry, but we cannot accept them as an excuse for lawmakers of conscience to give up. We understand politicians' penchant for compromise, but the credibility of the Feb. 14 election, and hence Indonesia's democracy, is too dear to trade away.

Lawmakers' failure to shed light on widespread irregularities in the general election and their silence at such a crucial moment of reckoning will deeply disappoint voters.

Source: https://www.thejakartapost.com/opinion/2024/04/05/a-telling-silence.htm