Golkar's Setya Novanto named Speaker; Indonesia President-elect Jokowi's allies walk out in protest

In a fresh setback for president-elect Joko Widodo, Golkar lawmaker Setya Novanto has been elected Indonesia's House Speaker in a move that could further hamper the incoming administration.

Mr Setya's election came after an acrimonious vote early Thursday morning around 3am, which saw Mr Joko's party, the Indonesian Democratic Party - Struggle (PDIP), and several coalition allies walking out in protest.

PDI-P's hopes for a late crossover by lawmakers from President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's Democratic Party and another ally - which would have given PDI-P the votes for its own candidate for Speaker - were dashed despite furious lobbying efforts by Mr Joko and party elites.

The late night vote for the House Speaker, which was broadcast live by national television, became heated at times. At one point, several lawmakers stormed the desk of the MP presiding over the session, Ms Popong Otje Djundjunan from Golkar, after she denied the requests of several MPs to speak from the floor.

The presiding MP's gavel even went missing for a while before it was found.

Indonesians expressed disappointment at the confrontational proceedings in Parliament, the second such episode in as many weeks. Last week, Indonesian lawmakers similarly used a late night vote to scrape direct elections for local leaders.

Many were also concerned by the appointment of Mr Setya, who has faced several graft accusations but never been charged. Mr Setya has denied any involvement in any corruption case.

"I had trouble breathing watching this parliament plenary session. This is crazy. SBY is leaving a complex legacy at the final days of his term," said Ms Linda Tangdialla, a Jakarta resident and former deputy chief editor of Bisnis Indonesia daily, Indonesia's largest business newspaper.

wahyudis@sph.com.sg