With Mahkamah Konstitusi Chief Justice Mahfud MD stepping down, the race to replace him is already underway. The current candidates are Arief Hidayat, Sugianto and Djafar Al Bram, law professors at Indonesian universities. They have already undergone the “essay-writing” portion of the fit and proper test.
According to The Jakarta Globe, several other candidates, including former Justice and Human Rights Minister Patrialis Akbar and law professors Lodewijk Gultom and Nimatul Huda have dropped out of the race. Patrialis had been the most prominent candidate in the race. According to Ruhut Poltak Sitompul, a member of the House of Representatives Komisi III, Patrialis withdrew because he likely would not have become chief justice. Instead, current justice Ali Mochtar will likely get the role.
With Patrialis out of the race, it also leaves a dearth of candidates with high-profile political experience. Many of the serving justices served either as MPs, ministers, or judges. There is a debate in the literature as to whether political experience helps judges resist demands from the other branches of government. Both Chief Justices Mahfud and Jimly had served in the legislature in some capacity and both were infamous for being canny tacticians. In the U.S., some of the most celebrated justices, such as Earl Warren and Hugo Black, made their careers in politics.
A law professor might also bring a more doctrinal perspective to the bench. Some Indonesian scholars believe the “politician-justices” are too pragmatic in their decisions. The charge “legislating from the bench” is often leveled. The law professors might bring a more theoretical approach to their judging.
So far, Mahfud is the only confirmed resignation, but Harjono also must resign at the end of this term (he’ll have served two terms). None of the other justices are required to retire, so it looks like the bench will remain largely the same.