Indonesian president’s power, term to be limited

Indonesian president’s power, term to be limited

JAKARTA, Nov. 12 Kyodo Indonesia’s highest constitutional body is expected to lift a controversial security decree which has beefed up the president’s already powerful powers and to limit the president’s and vice president’s terms in office as demanded by human rights advocates and political analysts.

The People’s Consultative Assembly plans to revoke the decree Friday at the end of its four-day extraordinary session. It had been passed by its general session in March under the government of then President Suharto after being abolished in 1993.

The use of the decree ”can pass over the legal and law limits, so it is not in line with the development of the governance life, which is getting more democratic,” a draft decree on the revocation of the decree said.

The assembly factions of the Muslim-based United Development Party (PPP), the Christian-and-nationalist Indonesian Democratic Party (PDI) and the Regional Representatives, which represent 27 provinces in the country, proposed the draft decree to lift the decree, saying a president does not need any extra power to run the administration.

The proposal has already won the support of factions of the ruling Golkar party and the Indonesian Armed Forces. It is widely known, however, that Golkar contrived the decree in order to provide Suharto with extraordinary power so he could crush all movements against his regime.

Under the current decree, the president, without prior consultation with the House of Representatives, has the right to take any extraordinary measures ”conceptually, quickly and properly” he deems necessary to safeguard development and the nation’s integrity and needs to report his action only after order has been restored.

Political analysts said it limits people’s civil rights and is therefore a setback to the country’s democratization, while human rights advocates had voiced concern that the decree could be used to silence government critics and suppress peaceful protests.

The Provisional People’s Consultative Assembly first passed the decree in 1966. It confirmed the late President Sukarno’s special mandate to then Army Chief Lt. Gen. Suharto — the former president — to restore order in the wake of an abortive coup attempt in 1965, blamed on the outlawed Indonesian Communist Party.

Suharto used the special power to ban the communist party.

The four sessions of the People’s Consultative Assembly between 1973 and 1988 maintained the decree, but in 1993 it was abolished. In March 1998, the assembly reintroduced it after Suharto spoke about the possibility of reviving the old ruling.

The assembly is also expected to limit the presidential and vice presidential terms to two five-year terms of office to boost democratization. Article 7 of the 1945 Constitution states, ”The president and the vice president shall hold office for a term of five years and shall be eligible for reelection.” The PPP and PDI factions that proposed the draft decree on the limitation of the terms argued that Suharto had abused the Constitution’s article to perpetuate his power and thus weaken democracy throughout his administration.

”During the journey of the governance of the Republic of Indonesia, the lack of limitation on how many times the president and the vice president can be reelected to hold their positions had created various interpretations that harmed the people’s sovereignty and the life of democracy,” the draft decree states.

Suharto had maintained his post for seven consecutive five-year periods.

Another draft decree expected to be passed by the assembly will appoint incumbent President B.J. Habibie ”to carry out the points of development reform in efforts to save and normalize the national life.” The draft decree ”will deliver his accountability until the end of his term of office before the general session of the People’s Consultative Assembly in 1999.”

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