Political Power in Legislation

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Laila Afifa

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  • TEMPO.CO, JakartaOur national legislative process is fraught with transactions to maintain various interests. The elimination of General Election Law and ITE Law discussions from the national legislative program is just a minor example.

    As suspected, President Joko Widodo's speech regarding the need to revise Information and Electronic Transaction (ITE) Law has turned out to be just a lip service as the planned revision of the law that has sent many people to jail was dropped from the 2021 national legislative program or Prolegnas 2021. Jokowi said in his speech on February 15, that he would work with the House of Representatives (DPR) to revise the ITE Law "if it cannot provide a sense of justice." He should have followed up his statement by making sure that the revision is included in the Prolegnas. Obviously, the two articles in the law - on defamation and insult - have been very useful in muffling critical voices.

    Prolegnas is a legislative normative mechanism stipulated in the legislation formulation law which describes it as a priority scale for formulating legislation to create the national legal system. But, in reality, the government and the DPR impelement this process in a pragmatic manner by cramming in all sorts of bills while discarding crucial ones such as the ITE Law revision.

    The DPR and the government agreed on 33 bills to be included in the 2021 Prolegnas, among others, the bills on protection of religious leaders and symbols and on the capital city. The two topics seem to illustrate the current political character of the government, that is, accommodating unsubstantial religious aspirations to pave the way for legality of Jokowi's ambitious project.

    They do not seem to care too much about fundamental rights of the people and democracy. In this digital era, the ITE Law has become an ultimate weapon for the law enforcement authorities to silence critcism against the government. The revision is needed to stop the criminalization of dissent. After all, the restorative justice regulation issued by National Police Chief Gen. Listyo Sigit Prabowo does not guarantee the end of the use of 'catchall' clauses of the ITE Law.

    Their pragmatic approach is also visible in the decision to exclude the General Election Law revision from the Prolegnas. The revision was initially drafted, among others, to 'normalize' the regional head elections agreed to be held simultaneously in 2024, alongside the presidential and legislative elections.

    After considering a myriad of problems in the 2019 elections - including the heavy burden on the poll officials - there was an aspiration to separate the three major political races. Almost all the factions at the DPR agreed. But President Jokowi then lobbied the chiefs of his supporting parties. Subsequently, all the parites changed course. It is impossible to rule out the notion that the decision was taken based on political calculations only.

    The decision is also in stark contrast to the conspiracy to endorse the revision of the Anti-Corruption Law in 2019 and the Job Creation Law last year. The two bills were deliberated and passed without going through the Prolegnas. It is not surprising since the two regulations support the government's mmission to 'facilitate development.'

    The government, with Senayan's support, uses the laws to reinforce its power. As a result, they often disregard democratic and human rights approaches in legislative processes. Trade, investment and capital interests have become primary objectives in formulating various laws.

    Read the Complete Story in Tempo English Magazine