Yogyakarta Sultan Keeps His Hold on Governorship
Tension between Yogyakarta and the central government ended on Thursday after the House of Representatives passed a law affirming the sultan, the country’s most influential monarch, would automatically be the governor of the province.
The ongoing struggle among political parties to win the support of Sultan Hamengkubuwono X, the current monarch, has also come to an end because the newly-passed law on the special territory of Yogyakarta bars him from becoming a member of any party.
The sultan, who will be forced to give up his Golkar Party membership, left the door open to a presidential bid in 2014.
“It’s better for the country if the sultan doesn’t belong to any particular party,” G.K.R. Hemas, the sultan’s wife, said after the House’s decision. “He will stand above all parties.”
Hemas, a deputy speaker at the Regional Representatives Council (DPD), said that all Yogyakarta’s residents would welcome the passage of the law.
The national government had wanted the governor and deputy governor of the province to be elected, like in all other provinces, but locals pointed to the special status of the region awarded by founding President Sukarno in return for the region’s services to the young Indonesian republic. They claim that the former president was adamant that the position should not be an elected one.
They said that as part of the special status, the house of the Yogyakarta sultanate and the head of the Pakualam princedom should automatically become the governor and deputy governor.
At the peak of the tension, many Yogyakarta residents staged large rallies, demanding that the region break away from Indonesia.
Realizing the strong resistance, the central government eventually softened its stance.
A breakthrough following nearly 10 years of discussions on the draft came in a recent meeting between President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and the sultan. A compromise was reached allowing the Sultan to stay on as governor as long as he was not a part of any political party.
Despite the law forbidding him from being a member of any political party, the sultan did not rule out possibility of running for president in 2014, saying that he would still be involved in politics.
“Being involved in politics is the right of every citizen. So I can be [involved],” he said. Asked if he was willing to be nominated for president in 2014, he said: “Don’t ask me. Ask the political parties as I won’t make any maneuver as I will stay at home.”
Hemas said that her husband had been courted by several parties.
The sultan is a Golkar member, however other major parties claim to have received support from the monarch.
Home Minister Gamawan Fauzi said that years of heated discussion and tussles paid off with the passage of the law.
“The nation’s history has recognized the special status attached to Yogyakarta,” he told the lawmakers after the passage of the law.
Analysts have praised the 66-year-old sultan as an able governor, with the province of more than 3.5 million people increasing its economic prosperity and sociopolitical stability since he took office in 1998.
Under his rule, Yogyakarta remains as one of the wealthiest and most tolerant provinces, with Muslims, non-Muslims and other minority ethnic groups coexisting with little conflict. Muslim minority sects, such as Ahmadiyah, have felt protected inside the province.