JAKARTA — Local elections will be held simultaneously across Indonesia for the first time on Wednesday, after the issue of whether to directly elect mayors and other local government leaders spurred ructions, recriminations and walkouts in the national parliament last year. Back then, parties supporting President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo, who had just been elected to office, voted to retain the decade-old system of direct local elections, but the parties backing the losing presidential candidate, Prabowo Subianto, successfully voted to scrap it. Given that Indonesia had just elected Widodo, a former governor of Jakarta and mayor of Surakarta, as president, the assault on voters’ rights prompted a massive public outcry. The backlash was strong enough to not only prompt then-President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to issue a decree overturning the vote, but convinced parliament to boost the status of local elections. “There are 365 days in the year, there are more than 540 election locations,” Arief Budiman, a commissioner at the KPU, the Indonesian election commission, told the Nikkei Asian Review. “Before, we were constantly monitoring another election.”
JAKARTA – Another messy split looms for the one-time political powerhouse Golkar, the party of Indonesia’s former dictator Suharto, following a rancorous annual conference over the past week. Aburizal Bakrie, a billionaire businessman, was re-elected as party leader on Wednesday evening after sidelining several senior party rivals who wanted Golkar to join the coalition government. In what sounded like a scene from British comedy classic Blackadder, a recording surfaced of a Bakrie aide telling delegates in Bali that he had a “cunning plan” to ensure Bakrie was re-elected. It worked: Bakrie won unopposed after his six opponents dropped out or refused to run, claiming the vote was tainted.