Indonesia‘s new parliament elected its first female speaker, Puan Maharani Nakshatra Kusyala, granddaughter of the country’s first president, after members of the House of Representatives were sworn in on Tuesday amid continuing protests against several new or proposed laws.
Puan Maharani, Sukarno’s granddaughter and the daughter of former President Megawati Sukarnoputri, was unanimously elected as House speaker.
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She is a member of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle, which is led by her mother and is the largest party in parliament. It is known by its Indonesian initials PDI-P.
“This will be the first female House Speaker after 70 years. I hope it will be an inspiration,” Puan Maharani was quoted by Tempo newspaper as saying on Tuesday.
The 46-year-old politician was coordinating minister for human development and cultural affairs in President Joko Widodo’s Cabinet, before she resigned to take up her seat in parliament.
Tuesday’s ceremony included 575 politicians from nine political parties.
The politicians will be under immediate pressure to revisit the legislation, including a proposed new criminal code as well as bills on mining, land and labour, that has triggered public anger.
Meanwhile, the Regional Representative Council, also known as Indonesia’s Senate, elected La Nyalla Mahmud Mattalitti as head of the 136-seat body.
Indonesia’s parliament has two chambers, and the Senate is responsible for proposing and giving advice on bills that are then approved by the more powerful House of Representatives.
La Nyalla, the new Senate leader, is a controversial figure. He was previously charged by prosecutors of enriching himself with US$82,000 as former head of the East Java branch of the Indonesian Chamber of Commerce and Industry. However, he was found not guilty by Jakarta’s anti-corruption court.
Indonesia gets first female speaker for House of Representatives. Puan Maharani is the daughter of former president Megawati Soekarnoputri. Hope she could increase the parliament's performance and promote human rights 🇮🇩https://t.co/p76H5s8vrN
— Andreas Harsono (@andreasharsono) October 1, 2019
Security was especially tight in the capital, Jakarta, where authorities blocked streets leading to the parliament building, and 24,000 police and soldiers were deployed to secure key locations, including the presidential palace.
However, demonstrations were largely peaceful, where about a thousand university students gave flowers to several riot police and marines.
They also tossed petals into a mock grave bearing the names of two student protesters who died in violent clashes in Kendari city on Sulawesi island last week.
Indonesians went to the polls in April to vote for the president, members of parliament, and provincial and regional legislative councils.
President Widodo won a second five-year term, and he and his allies control more than 65 percent of the seats in the House, more than during his first term.
He will be sworn in for his second term on October 20, although there have been reports that he has requested his inauguration to be moved a day earlier on the 19.
The ongoing protests and the legislation that sparked them, however, could threaten Widodo’s credibility after he campaigned on a platform of clean governance.
Protesters are enraged that the previous parliament passed a law last month that reduces the authority of the Corruption Eradication Commission, a key body in fighting endemic graft in the country and one of the nation’s most trusted institutions.
Activists say the revision weakens the powers of one of the most credible public institutions in a country where police and politicians are perceived as being widely corrupt.