Politician of the Golongan Karya Party (Golkar) Bambang Soesatyo was elected as Chair of the People's Consultative Assembly period 2019-2024 - Photo: Privacy

JAKARTA (TheInsiderStories) – Politician of the Golongan Karya Party (Golkar) Bambang Soesatyo was elected as Chair of the People’s Consultative Assembly period 2019-2024 in a plenary meeting on late Thursday (10/03). He was elected after defeating a strong candidate from the Indonesian opposition’ Gerakan Indonesia Raya Party (Gerindra), Ahmad Muzani.

Two large parties in the House of Representatives had battled for control of the assembly amid a plan to amend the Constitution to grant the legislature greater control over President Joko Widodo’s agenda.

Soesatyo had previously been the House speaker which just ended. He replaces his party colleague Setya Novanto, who had resigned as parliament speaker in late 2017 after implicated in a US$170 million graft scandal. Golkar’s new chairman, Airlangga Hartarto, appointed Soesatyo as the new speaker and sworn in on 15 January 2018.

“With all parties agreement, by consensus and acclamation, Mr. Bambang Soesatyo was elected as chairman of the People’s Consultative Assembly period 2019-2024. Agree?” the interim leader Abdul Wahab Dalimunthe asked the members.

“Agree,” they shouted.

Soesatyo was accompanied by nine deputies from all parties in the assembly. They included Ahmad Basarah from the Demokrasi Indonesia Perjuangan Party (PDIP), Ahmad Muzani from Gerindra, Lestari Moerdijat from Nasional Demokrat Party (NasDem), Jazilul Fawaid from Kebangkitan Bangsa Party (PKB).

Then, Demokrat Party represented by Syarief Hasan, Hidayat Nur Wahid from Keadilan Sejahtera Party (PKS), Zulkifli Hasan from Amanat Nasional Party (PAN), Persatuan Pembangunan Party (PPP) has Arsul Sani and Fadel Muhammad from the Regional Representative Council Group.

The election of the assembly speaker was fierce because of the ambitions of the two parties, Golkar and Gerindra, to lead it was equally strong. The speaker post has strategies roles in a race that may shape the power constellation of the legislature and the upcoming Cabinet of President Widodo.

Earlier, political parties in the ruling coalition are divided over their support for Soesatyo, who has voiced opposition to a plan to amend the Constitution proposed by the PDIP, the largest party in the House and in Widodo’s coalition.

The PDIP, which has sought greater control over Widodo’s upcoming Cabinet, has reiterated its plan to amend the Constitution to regain control over the government’s development agenda through the reinstatement of the State Policy Guidelines.

Golkar has opposed the plan and rallied support from the NasDem and PPP to support Soesatyo. NasDem Party chairman Surya Paloh argued that Soesatyo was a more seasoned politician than Muzani, a former assembly deputy speaker.

Paloh said on Wednesday that it would be “very odd” if the members did not choose Soesatyo by acclamation at a plenary session planned adding that he had conveyed his support during a meeting with Golkar chairman Hartarto and Soesatyo earlier.

The PPP secretary-general Arsul Sani said the party’s decision to support Soesatyo was made during its central executive board meeting held on Sunday night.

“His openness, including his willingness to listen was the reason. He is open to all elements of society, this must be appreciated,” he said.

In April’s election, Gerindra and Golkar finished second and third after the PDI-P, with each collecting around 12 percent of the vote in the legislative race. Gerindra won slightly more votes than Golkar.

Gerindra was the major force behind its chairman Prabowo Subianto’s presidential bid against Widodo, but things took an unprecedented turn when the PDIP suggested it was open to Gerindra joining the ruling coalition and the government, angering other members of the ruling coalition.

Other parties that supported Subianto — Demokrat, and PAN — have also expressed an intention to join the ruling coalition. Another former supporter of Subianto, PKS, has expressed support for Golkar’s assembly speakership bid. PKS is the last remaining party that has not expressed an interest in joining the government.

With only days to go before Widodo is inaugurated for his second term, the boundary between the ruling coalition and the opposition has faded by the day.

Political observers say control of the government in the next five years will not be effective with Soesatyo being elected. The legislature is controlled by the parties supporting the president after the House was previously chaired by PDIP’ Puan Maharani, Widodo’s main supporting party.

“There will be many fundamental changes related to legislative performance that will appear softer or ‘soft’ vis-a-vis with the executive in the next five years,” said Lucius Karus of Forum Masyarakat Peduli Parlemen Indonesia, adding that there would be a beautiful balance of power if Gerindra leads the assembly speaker.

“Yes, in fact, it is not ideal if all institutions are controlled by the government coalition party. Opposition sounds may still be heard in the next five years but maybe with a weak frequency,” said Arya Fernandez of Center of Strategic International Studies.

“In these conditions, the public’ control must be more massive in responding to every policy that will be produced by the executive and legislative,” he ended.

Written by Lexy Nantu, Email: lexy@theinsiderstories.com