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Senior Golkar lawmaker elected as Speaker of powerful Indonesian assembly

Straits Times - October 4, 2019

Wahyudi Soeriaatmadja, Jakarta – A senior politician with Indonesia's second-largest party Golkar, Bambang Soesatyo, has been appointed Speaker of the People's Consultative Assembly (MPR), as lawmakers gear up for the new legislative year.

The bi-chamber MPR consists of 575 MPs from the House of Representatives (DPR), and 136 regional lawmakers from the Regional Representative Council (DPD).The elected lawmakers from the DPD, sometimes referred to as the Senate, represent the country's 34 provinces.

President Joko Widodo will be sworn into his second and final term on Oct 20, along with new Vice-President Ma'ruf Amin.

The MPR Speaker's appointment followed Monday's pick of the DPR Speaker, Puan Maharani, from the biggest party, Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P).

Puan Maharani, 46, is the daughter of PDI-P chairman Megawati Soekarnoputri.

The DPR, or lower house of Parliament, is vested with the most legislative power, including making new laws and approving government-proposed annual budgets.

The MPR, meanwhile, has authority to impeach a sitting President – though through a long process – or to amend the 1945 Constitution.

Golkar is the second biggest party in Parliament with 85 seats. The biggest party PDI-P has 128 seats.

Mr Bambang, 57, was the previous DPR Speaker, from January last year to the end of last month.

Though Golkar is an ally of Mr Joko who is from the PDI-P, Mr Bambang has been at the forefront of efforts among some of Indonesia's political elite to end the practice of direct presidential elections.

Indonesia has held four direct presidential polls since the fall of strongman President Suharto in 1998.

But leaders such as Mr Bambang have argued that the country should change the current Constitution and return to the one in 1945 where the president was chosen by lawmakers, and not elected by voters.

He has said that having direct presidential elections have brought about more disadvantages than benefits. Others see this as a move to limit the president's independence in making decisions.

The interactions between Mr Bambang and President Joko will thus be closely watched in the next five years.

Source: https://www.straitstimes.com/asia/se-asia/senior-golkar-lawmaker-elected-as-speaker-of-powerful-indonesian-assembly