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Electing Jakarta's leader

Jakarta Post Editorial - March 14, 2024

Jakarta – The people of Jakarta should fight any attempt to deny them their right to elect their leader directly, otherwise, the metropolis will lose much of its vibrancy and deep-rooted democratic culture.

The House of Representatives and the government are now debating the initiative bill on the Jakarta Special Region, which has sparked controversy for reinstating the New Order practice of giving the President the mandate to handpick the Jakarta governor and deputy governor.

Such a mechanism is an anachronism within Indonesia's democratic landscape because since 2005 the people have elected their governors, mayors and regents directly, on top of electing the president and vice president through the one-man one-vote system.

The House initiated the bill to replace the 2007 Jakarta Law as the capital city will be relocated to East Kalimantan. The House passed the revised National Capital City (IKN) Law in October last year, which means the new president cannot abandon President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo's signature capital-relocation project.

Article 10 paragraph 2 of the bill on the Jakarta Special Region says the Jakarta governor and deputy governor shall be appointed and dismissed by the president.

Indeed, as the capital special region, Jakarta does not enjoy a "full-fledged" democracy like other provinces. Although the city is run by an elected governor, who comes under the supervision of the city council, its people do not elect mayors or members of the legislative council at the sub-province level.

All five mayors and one regent in Jakarta are appointed by the governor.

During the New Order regional leaders, including Jakarta governors, were elected by the regional legislative councils, but the final say came from then-president Soeharto. In the case of Jakarta, the governor had to be a Soeharto confidant and from a military background.

Home Minister Tito Karnavian has said the government is resisting the provision regarding the Jakarta governor, saying the current direct election of Jakarta's governor and deputy governor should remain intact.

But Jakartans should not take such a pledge for granted, even if it comes from President Jokowi. Over the past few years, we have seen the President break his promises, or shift the burden to the House in case of unpopular policies.

Ahead of the Feb. 14 elections, Jokowi promised to stay neutral and provide a level playing field to all candidates, but later he openly said he and other public officials had the right to take sides.

Previously, due to public opposition, his government was reluctant to sponsor the controversial amendment of the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) Law and Health Law and passed the buck to the House instead.

Not long ago, there were also talks between the government and the House to overturn the direct election of regional leaders, arguing the system was a waste of money and energy.

The current House is expected to pass the bill on the Jakarta Special Region before its term ends on Oct. 1. House Speaker Puan Maharani has promised to fully collaborate with the government to pass the bill into law.

The enactment of Law No. 3/2022 on the IKN also revoked Jakarta's status as the capital city last month. However, according to Article 39 of the IKN Law, Jakarta remains the capital city until the presidential decree for the relocation is issued. The transition period will provide the government ample time to enforce the new law in Jakarta.

Jakarta will remain a strategic business and trade hub when the capital is relocated to East Kalimantan, which is why the political elites intend to preserve their control of the city. The people of Jakarta should therefore speak as loudly as possible to oppose any plan by the political establishment to remove democracy from the city. The people, rather than the central government, have the right to choose their leaders.

Jakarta people should do what it takes to make sure their voices are heard. They cannot just let anyone, whether president or politicians, rob them of their constitutional rights and vibrant democracy.

Source: https://www.thejakartapost.com/opinion/2024/03/14/electing-jakartas-leader.htm