JAKARTA (Reuters) – Indonesia inaugurated a new, opposition-dominated parliament on Wednesday, one that is expected to obstruct incoming president Joko Widodo’s ambitious reforms for Southeast Asia’s biggest economy.
Widodo, the popular former governor of the capital, Jakarta, narrowly won an election in July, becoming the first businessman to become president of the world’s third-largest democracy, a post previously held by members of the military or political elite.
Widodo’s direct approach and success in cutting red tape appealed to ordinary voters and investors who welcomed his victory by pushing the stock market to a record high.
But with the convening of the new parliament, where Widodo can only count on a minority coalition, as well as with pressures within his own camp, the honeymoon looks to be over.
“Indonesia’s new president Joko Widodo is expected to prove himself a transformational leader, with a massive positive impact on the economy and hence equity values,” local brokerage Mandiri Sekuritas said in a report.
“However he needs parliamentary support, and the risks of his not getting that are rising significantly now.”
The main lawmaking body of Indonesia, known locally as the House of Representatives or DPR, swore in 560 members amid tight security in central Jakarta.
Over half the new MPs are fresh faces, including a sprinkling of corruption suspects and celebrities, after many failed to get re-elected due to track records tainted by graft and inefficiency.
According to a 2013 Transparency International survey, parliament is perceived to be more affected by corruption than any other institution in the country.
The last house passed only 126 bills over five years, about half its original target, according to media.
But parliament can be a powerful check on the executive branch of government.
The opposition camp in parliament is led by failed presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto’s party, and controls over 60 per cent of seats.
It takes issue with many of Widodo’s plans, such as cutting fuel subsidies, and it has already been giving him a taste of what looks to be in store.
Prabowo’s coalition scored a major victory in the dying days of the old parliament session by depriving Widodo’s Indonesian Democratic Party-Struggle of the coveted parliament speaker position.
A hostile speaker and opposition bloc could hold the government’s programmes “hostage” by hijacking debate, Widodo’s allies fear.