Indonesia's parliament blocks fuel prices hike

Associated Press
Protesters run as police fires firecrackers to disperse them during a protest against the government's plan to raise fuel prices outside the parliament in Jakarta, Indonesia, Friday, March 30, 2012. The Indonesian government plans to raise fuel prices by about 33 percent next month to avoid a budget deficit due to expensive fuel subsidies. (AP Photo/Achmad Ibrahim)
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JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — Indonesia's parliament voted Saturday to block the government's plan to raise fuel prices by more than 30 percent this weekend, but it allowed for a future price hike under certain conditions.

The government was set to raise the price of gasoline from around 50 cents to 65 cents per liter on Sunday. It says it has no choice but to cut budget-busting fuel subsidies, which have for years enabled motorists to fill up for roughly $2 per gallon.

The 550-seat house voted early Saturday to allow a price hike only if the average price of Indonesian crude in six months soars 15 percent above $105 per barrel, to $120.75 per barrel. The average price of Indonesian crude is now $116.49 per barrel.

In a plenary session marred by interruptions, heated debates and walkouts, 356 legislators voted to approve the conditional price hike, while 82 rejected it.

Led by the opposition Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle, 93 lawmakers who reject any price hike at all stormed out as the vote was under way.

The vote came amid massive street protests in major cities against the plan, and more than 2,000 policemen and hundreds of soldiers guarded the parliament complex.

Earlier, outside the complex, police fired tear gas and water cannons to disperse thousands of students and workers who had blocked access to a main toll road and torn down the fences near the main gate of the complex.

Elsewhere, more than 80,000 people from 92 organizations staged rallies Friday across the country, rejecting the price hike.

With global oil prices surging, most Indonesians realize the government has little choice. But that hasn't stopped thousands in a nation of 240 million, many of whom live in abject poverty, from taking to the streets every day for the last several weeks.

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