Jokowi Advocates Caution on Move That May End Direct Elections

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(Bloomberg) -- Indonesian President Joko Widodo called for caution over a plan to amend the constitution that critics say represents a threat to democracy in the world’s fourth-most populous country.

Jokowi, as Widodo is known, asked lawmakers not to rush through changes to the constitution, which could see the balance of power in Indonesia shift from the president to party chiefs and end direct elections. The move to review the constitution has drawn support from the nation’s main political parties, including from Jokowi’s own ruling Indonesia Democratic Party of Struggle, or PDI-P.

“The most important thing is that in-depth studies are undertaken,” Jokowi said in a statement released by his office Wednesday. The plan “needs to accommodate proposals from all figures, academics and the public,” the president said after a meeting Bambang Soesatyo, the speaker of the People’s Consultative Assembly, or MPR, and other house leaders in Jakarta.

Read: Indonesia Oligarchs Are Trying to Yank Power From the President

Analysts have raised concerns Indonesia is edging closer to returning to a system that would entrench the power of political oligarchs and risk driving away investment.

“They are trying to set the clock back,” said Keith Loveard, a senior analyst with Concord Consulting in Jakarta. While “the population has demonstrated it likes democracy” the political elites are ”disillusioned with what they see as this populist experiment,” he said.

Soesatyo, who has publicly advocated against direct elections, said Wednesday the MPR would not rush the plan through. “We will be very careful in accommodating all aspirations,” he said.

The parliament may take at least three years before actually amending the 1945 constitution and if consultations showed the public were against such a move the house will scrap the plan, the Jakarta Post reported Wednesday, citing Soesatyo.

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

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