Indonesia: Arguments surrounding Omnibus laws including – Bill ‘to protect’ President from impeachment

  • Amid debate over articles in the omnibus bill on job creation that would grant sweeping powers to President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo, allowing him to override laws and bylaws, Coordinating Economic Minister Airlangga Hartarto has come to Jokowi’s defense, saying that the authority is important as it would protect the President from potential impeachment.
  • “Who’s the one who can be impeached? The President. Can the President be impeached because of ministers’ mistakes? Can the President be impeached because of governors’ mistakes? This is the problem. So, we give discretion to the President,” Airlangga said during a meeting with media leaders, on 19 Feb 20.
  • Among the controversial articles is Article 170, which stipulates that the government can consult with the House when revoking laws, a process that, according to the Constitution, can only take place if the government issues a regulation in lieu of law and gets the House’s approval.
  • Article 166 has also been criticized, as it will enable bylaws and other regulations issued by regional administrations to be overturned by a presidential regulation. If the bill is passed, the article would contradict a 2017 ruling of the Constitutional Court that prohibits the central government from revoking bylaws. The ruling handed that authority to the Supreme Court.
  • In making his case, Airlangga, who is also the chairman of the Golkar Party, a major supporter in the government coalition, cited a public debate during former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s tenure, in which some said the president should be impeached following a rise of fuel prices.
  • Some lawmakers were surprised by Airlangga’s argument, saying that it seemed the government was overreacting to problems that did not exist.
  • NasDem Party politician Taufik Basari said the government’s plan to override legislative powers in Article 170 was “unacceptable”.
  • “The idea of the government having the authority to create and revoke laws simply by issuing government regulations is a mistake because it is unconstitutional. Avoiding impeachment as a reason for it is also a mistake,” he said.
  • Other Cabinet members have also tried to quell the controversy. Coordinating Legal, Political and Security Affairs Minister Mahfud MD and Law and Human Rights Minister Yasonna Laoly offered a different explanation to the Article 170 provision, saying there had been a typo and that the government did not actually intend to add it.
  • “We [lawmakers] could fix it at the House before we deliberate it. We will go through the controversial articles, especially if they contradict the Constitution,” said House Deputy Speaker Sufmi Dasco Ahmad of the Gerindra Party.
  • Labor groups are divided over the bill. A meeting of representatives of labor unions, businesspeople and the government saw divisions within the ranks of labor unions.
  • Four groups refused to join a team on public consultations over the bill. Those who refused to join were the Confederation of Indonesian Trade Unions (KSPI), the Congress of Indonesia Unions Alliance, the Federation of Chemical, Energy and Mining Trade Unions and the Federation of Electronic Metal Worker Unions.
  • “There is no guarantee of employment security, income security and social security [in the bill]. The bill has no protection for workers and even eliminates our welfare,” Said Iqbal of the KSPI said.
  • Airlangga, however, claimed that neither unions nor lawmakers objected to the omnibus bill.

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