September 29, 2014 / 12:08 PM / in 5 years

Party of Indonesia president-elect denied parliament speaker role

JAKARTA (Reuters) - Indonesia’s highest court on Monday rejected a legal challenge by president-elect Joko Widodo’s party to a law that prevents it from filling the role of parliamentary speaker, complicating efforts to push through economic reforms.

Widodo’s Indonesian Democratic Party-Struggle (PDI-P) won just under 20 percent of the total vote in April’s parliamentary election, the biggest share of any political party.

But lawmakers in the outgoing parliament in July rushed through a change to a previous law that allowed the biggest party in parliament to automatically appoint a speaker, arguing that the appointment should be based on a vote.

“It’s not just that this robs us of the right as a party to select the speaker of the (parliament) but also affects the sustainability of the incoming government of Widodo,” PDI-P lawmaker Trimedya Panjaitan told media.

“If the head of the lower and upper houses are controlled by the opposition, we can imagine how they could hold the government’s programmes hostage.”

Puan Maharani, PDI-P lawmaker and daughter of party head and former president Megawati Sukarnoputri, had been expected to assume the coveted house speaker position.

The position is now likely to be decided on by the opposition coalition led by losing presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto’s Gerindra party.

The Constitutional Court decision comes on the heels of another victory for the opposition coalition, which last week pushed through a controversial bill ending direct elections for regional level leaders.

Critics say the move to shift that authority to regional legislatures is a major blow to the fledgling democracy, the third-largest in the world, as it would transfer power away from the people into the hands of an elite.

Reporting by Kanupriya Kapoor; Editing by Jeremy Laurence

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