A president must be held accountable by parliament

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(photo: Prive. Doc)

IO Jakarta – As one of the highest governing bodies in Indonesia, the People’s Consultative Council (MPR) must play a meaningful role as a balance for the presidency system during the 2014-2019 period. Such strengthening is intended to avoid a situation where the president is taken down by political issues or events. As it is written in the Constitution, the president may only be brought down by acts such as treason, corruption, bribery, or other serious criminal violations. “Apart from this, a president or vice-president cannot be removed. It cannot be that a president is as easily taken down as President Abdurrahman Wahid was, just because of the Bulog-Gate issue,” observed MPR Member from the National Awakening Party (PKB) fraction Abdul Kadir Karding.

According to Karding, such a strengthening is no different than the amendment to the 1945 Constitution, which effected many changes in Indonesia’s system of government. Before the implementation of the amendment, powers of the executive branch were sweeping. However, after the advent of Reformation, many changes were instituted, as a division of authority between government organs became more balanced. Karding stated that once the amendment was passed, presidents could no longer serve more than two terms. Another change was that while previously a president was chosen by the MPR, now they would be chosen by the people. Before the amendment, the House of Representatives (DPR) was only a “rubber-stamp” body, approving policies of the president; now they have actual legislative power. In the past, bills derived from the administration; now the DPR can create and pass them. “So, the distribution of power is now better compared to before the amendment,” added Karding.

Although there has been a balancing of power between the executive and legislative branches, MPR Member from the National Mandate Party (PAN) fraction Saleh P. Daulay stated that the president still held a large amount of power. According to our governing system, the president has a legislative power of up to 50% in the creation of laws. In special circumstances, if needed, a president can issue a Law Overriding Government Regulations (PERPPU). This was done by President SBY when the DPR was about to change the election system to a regional election system. The bill almost became law with the DPR all in agreement when suddenly President SBY issued a PERPPU, causing it to be withdrawn. “The president’s authority is extraordinary: he is able to create laws through PERPPU,” said Saleh.

The DPR Commission XI Deputy Head stated that constitutional evaluation must be studied, including that which is related to inter-agency relationships pertaining to the current presidential system. In a number of law discussions, problems were found between the DPR and government, especially when the law is believed to create a conflict of interest with the government. Saleh gave the example of discussions of the Indonesia Red Cross Society Law, which could not be passed because of an issue with the symbol; the problem was that there was no agreement between the DPR and the government as to whether the symbol should use a cross or a red crescent moon. The government also has a large amount of authority over the budget. Saleh stated that the DPR in Indonesia is not as strong as the Congress in the United States. When discussing the state budget, the DPR cannot criticize or change budgets put forward by the government. “The DPR wants to finish it quickly but the government cannot because of conflicting interests,” said Saleh.

Ujang Komarudin, a political expert from Universitas Al-Azhar, Jakarta, stated that there was an interesting facet in the presidential system. The president’s large amount of power results in the parliament having to struggle to work together with the executive branch. Abundant executive power, according to Ujang, also makes it hard for the parliament to control and supervise the president. From the power given to the president, Ujan stated there needs to be a strong opposition as a check and balance. The president must be powerful but also must be controlled by the parliament. “During the New Order era they also used a presidential system. However, there was no balancing force,” Ujang pointed out. (Dan)