Sat, 05 Apr 2003

Surabaya council elects new chairman from PDI-P

Resi Fadjar Himawanti, The Jakarta Post, Surabaya

The Surabaya city council on Friday elected a faction member from the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI Perjuangan) as their new chairman, filling the post left vacant when his predecessor from the same faction stepped down over a corruption case in March.

Armuji won the election by securing nearly half of the votes from the 42 city council members representing four factions.

Chairing the PDI Perjuangan faction, Armuji won 19 votes to beat his closest rival from the Golkar party Gatot Sudjito, who had 12 votes.

Coming in third was the Indonesian Military and Police faction nominee Pudji Astuti with five votes. Last was Budiharto Tasmo of the National Awakening faction with four votes.

Based on the city council's procedures, the nominees of each faction would automatically obtain the council's deputy seats.

The National Awakening faction however retained its previous deputy, Ali Burhan who is in police detention as a suspect in a graft case. It said Ali's replacement depended on development in the ongoing investigation against him.

Friday's election followed the termination of the council's chairmanship on March 31.

The appointment of a new council speaker may signal the end of a long running rift between the council and the city administration.

PDI Perjuangan faction member M. Basuki stepped down from the council chairmanship, after police declared him a suspect in a Rp 22.5 billion (about US$2.5 million) graft case.

National Awakening faction nominee Ali was the other suspect.

Police also named council member Amien Ismail a suspect in a separate case involving the alleged misuse of Golkar-owned vehicles. Amien chairs the Golkar party chapter in Surabaya.

The high profile graft cases came in the wake of the council's failed attempt to oust Surabaya mayor Bambang Dwi Hartono last year.

Councillors sought to remove the mayor just three days after he took over the post from Sunarto Sumoprawiro. Sunarto himself was sacked by the council.

Mayor Bambang withstood these attempts, partly due to the central government's displeasure over the council's aggressive moves.

With Bambang's main political foes facing serious legal charges, his position seems secure for some time.

Across the country, numerous regional legislatures have been at odds with their local administrations.

The surge in conflicts followed the implementation of the 1999 autonomy laws in 2001. These laws have granted regions greater authority to manage their own economic and political affairs.

Councillors may elect and dismiss their governors, regents or mayors, reflecting a major boost of their political clout.

Newly elected Council Speaker Armuji promised to improve the council's performance.

His deputy from the joint faction, Gatot, said that purging corruption from the council should be the priority.