Speaker of Indonesia's Parliament quits amid graft probe

Setya Novanto was last month relieved of his duties as Golkar chairman, a few days after he was detained by the KPK.
Setya Novanto was last month relieved of his duties as Golkar chairman, a few days after he was detained by the KPK.

JAKARTA • Indonesia's Parliament Speaker Setya Novanto, who is being investigated for alleged corruption, resigned from his post yesterday. He has been temporarily replaced by Mr Fadli Zon, who was deputy speaker, local media reported.

Several members of the assembly said yesterday that Novanto had sent in a resignation letter, but there was early confusion over whether his offer to step down had been accepted.

Novanto has been declared a suspect by the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) in a massive corruption case involving dozens of politicians taking kickbacks for approving a 5.9 trillion rupiah (S$558 million) budget for the e-KTP - a biometric electronic identity card - project in 2010.

He was last month relieved of his duties as chairman of his party Golkar, the second biggest in Parliament, a few days after he was detained by the KPK.

He is scheduled to face a trial this week at the Corruption Court in Jakarta, but his defence lawyers quit last week.

Mr Fadli is deputy chairman of the Gerindra party.

It remains unclear if Golkar, which is part of the ruling coalition led by President Joko Widodo's party, will insist on picking a replacement for Novanto later.

Earlier, Indonesian media quoted MP Dito Ganinduto from Golkar as saying the party would hold an extraordinary meeting next week to decide who would replace Novanto.

News reports say Novanto had in one letter to Parliament named a Golkar leader, Mr Aziz Syamsuddin, as his replacement.

A net effect of Novanto's resignation could be a weakening of the Joko administration.

The Jakarta Post reported that Novanto, 62, is a key ally of Mr Joko, widely known as Jokowi, who helped to push through key legislative programmes.

And the former speaker had also helped Mr Joko strengthen his power independently from his own party, the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle, which is controlled by former president Megawati Sukarnoputri.

Novanto "is seen as crucial to Jokowi's bid for re-election in 2019, providing him with a running mate to offset the influence of Megawati", the report said.

Without that support, "the president will likely be weakened and left facing a much tougher route to retain power. Some senior Golkar members are known to be hostile towards Jokowi's presidency", it added.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 12, 2017, with the headline 'Speaker of Indonesia's Parliament quits amid graft probe'. Print Edition | Subscribe