Jokowi rebuffs SBY's criticisms of new election law, says absolute power impossible in Indonesia

Any party can go through a process in Parliament if they do not agree with any law or regulation, Mr Joko added, stressing that there is an open channel to file any appeal or objection.
Any party can go through a process in Parliament if they do not agree with any law or regulation, Mr Joko added, stressing that there is an open channel to file any appeal or objection.PHOTO: REUTERS

JAKARTA - President Joko Widodo dismissed criticism by the opposition including his predecessor Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono that a recently-passed election law and a decree banning radical mass organisations would lead to "unchecked power", saying that Indonesia's political system rules out "absolute power".

"I need to state that there is no such thing as absolute power. We have the press, the media, non-governmental organisations, and those who carry out a supervisory role, the Parliament. The people can also carry out a direct supervisory role," Mr Joko told reporters during a visit to an industrial park in West Java province on Friday (July 28).

Any party can go through a process in Parliament if they do not agree with any law or regulation, Mr Joko added, stressing that there is an open channel to file any appeal or objection.

Mr Joko's remarks came in the wake of Dr Yudhoyono's strong words for the election Bill, which was passed in parliament last week with the support of Mr Joko's ruling coalition. The Bill preserves the requirement that parties will need to have at least 20 per cent of the seats in Parliament, or a minimum 25 per cent share of the popular vote, before they can nominate a presidential candidate.

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Dr Yudhoyono's Democratic Party and the main opposition Gerindra party had wanted the 20 per cent and 25 per cent thresholds scrapped because they believe it narrows the field for the 2019 race, and may give the incumbent President Joko an unfair advantage.

Mr Joko, who had no prior ties to the old political or military elite, became President in 2014 under the same system and the status quo would favour his run for office again, political observers have said.

"Power must not go unchecked. That means we have to make sure that those that have power do not go beyond the limits, so that they do not go into an abuse of power territory," Dr Yudhoyono has said. "This nation has learnt many lessons that when there was an abuse of power, the people used their rights to correct the government."

Mr Prabowo Subianto of Gerindra echoed Dr Yudhoyono's accusation, calling the recently ratified election law as a joke.

The two men met on Thursday night where they agreed that their parties would cooperate.

Dr Yudhoyono has also criticised Mr Joko's latest perppu, an emergency edict that allows the government to disband radical organisations. The The government has banned Hizbut Tahrir, citing the Islamist group’s support for a Muslim caliphate and other activities that deviate from Indonesia’s state principles, known as Pancasila. 

On the presidential threshold, Mr Joko said Indonesia has held two presidential elections using the 20 per cent seat and 25 per cent vote in 2009 and 2014. The elections took place without violence and were hailed by the international community as successful.

Mr Joko said a presidential candidate must get adequate minimum support from political parties to ensure stability in Parliament if the candidate wins the race.

"Don't create an assumption as if the 20 per cent threshold were wrong. This is a product of democracy that was passed in Parliament. The Parliament's product, not the government's. There is a democratic process in Parliament," Mr Joko added.