JAKARTA, Sept 11 — The incoming governor of the Indonesian capital Jakarta has quit the party of losing presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto over its support for a controversial bid to scrap local direct elections.
Prabowo has failed in several attempts to challenge his loss to Jakarta governor Joko Widodo in the July poll, and his mission to end direct elections of mayors and governors is seen as a way to stop those outside the political elite from quickly rising through the ranks, as Widodo did.
Jakarta deputy governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, who will take over the reins when Widodo is sworn in as president next month, announced late yesterday he had quit the Gerindra party over the bid, which is being deliberated in parliament.
He is the highest-profile member to leave the party following Prabowo’s loss.
“Leaders chosen by local parliaments rather than the people will be more likely to serve their party’s interests and not the interests of the people,” said the deputy governor, who is widely liked for his firm approach to cleaning up Jakarta’s tangled administration.
“My party supports this bill, which goes against my conscience, so yes, I’ve stepped down because I cannot be a good party member,” he said.
The bill has gained support in parliament, where Prabowo’s six-party coalition holds around three-quarters of the seats, and has gained traction as parliament’s term draws to a close at the month’s end.
Purnama, known better by his nickname Ahok, is the most visible ethnically Chinese politician in the world’s biggest Muslim-majority nation, where Chinese-Indonesians suffered widespread suppression and persecution during the three-decade Suharto dictatorship, which fell in 1998.
His announcement has caused a stir within the party, with several spokesmen criticising him for being ungrateful, saying he had contributed little to the organisation. Prabowo said only that he was “hurt” by the news.
Widodo, seen as a mascot for reform, and several critics have said passage of the bill would be a major blow to democracy.
The bill is also seen as a way to stymie Widodo, who will need the support of local leaders and parliament to carry out his ambitious programmes.
Indonesia held its first direct presidential election in 2004 and direct local elections followed in 2005, in an attempt to decentralise powers from Jakarta to the regions.
Widodo was elected mayor of his home town, Solo in Central Java province, where he was celebrated for his clean and down-to-earth style of government. His popularity saw him rapidly rise to Jakarta governor and then to president-elect. — AFP