JAKARTA (Reuters) – Indonesian lawmakers are expected to vote this week on legislation that ends direct elections for governors and mayors, a measure critics say would weaken the country’s democratic advances and encourage patronage politics.
The world’s third-largest democracy introduced direct elections of regional leaders in 2005, allowing for a new breed of politicians to emerge that were not linked to the political elite – such as president-elect Joko Widodo.
But direct elections have also proved to be costly for candidates, limiting the field to those who can afford to pay for their campaigns.
“High costs are required sometimes to carry our fair elections,” said Robert Endi Jaweng, executive director of Regional Autonomy Watch, a local non-governmental organisation.
“But the logic of democracy is not about the logic of efficiency, it’s about the right of the people to choose their leaders.”
The bill, which has strong support in parliament and is backed by several members in the coalition of losing presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto, would give local legislatures the power to choose governors and other regional heads instead of their constituents.