According to The Jakarta Post, there is more fallout from the Akil Mochtar scandal late last year. This time, allegations have arisen that KPK Deputy Chair Bambang Widjojanto asked Akil Mochtar for help getting appointed to the KPK. Read the whole article here.
Indonesia’s Constitutional Court has done it again. A few weeks ago, the Mahkamah Konstitusi announced that it would require national legislative and presidential elections to be held simultaneously. The campaigning for the 2014 elections has already begun, so the decision will not go into effect until 2019 (Indonesia’s elections take place every 5 years. However, critics, including elections lawyer Refly Harun, allege that the decision “could” have gone into effect for 2014 if the MK had released it earlier. According to The Jakarta Globe, the MK actually reached its decision last May.
At first glance, it might seem relatively innocuous – and perhaps even efficient – to hold elections concurrently. However, Indonesian presidential elections depend heavily on coalition formation because only parties that had won 20% of the DPR seats or 25% of the popular vote can nominate candidates (the MK allowed this requirement to stand). Most Indonesian political parties do not meet this requirement; after the 2009 elections, only the Democrats, GOLKAR, and PDI-P would qualify. Thus, many of the smaller parties would need to form coalitions to gain a seat in the administration, often by putting forward the vice-presidential candidates.
So the biggest remaining question seems to be how will the process of coalition formation change with the simultaneity requirement if they cannot form coalitions after having seen the DPR results? This might lead to parties forming coalitions based on previous election results and polling. Or, it could lead to parties taking greater account of ideology and policy platforms to form stronger policy-based identities before elections.
In the wake of last week’s mob attack on the Indonesian Constitutional Court (MK), some politicians are taking the opportunity to remind the court about its legitimacy problems. According to Viva News, DPR representative Eva Sundari (PDI-P) has called on all eight justices to resign:
New justices should be elected: Those who do not share the sin of Akil Mochtar for endorsing his unaccountable rulings. (translation from The Jakarta Post)
Such calls raise an important question: was Akil Mochtar simply a bad apple or a sign of deeper problems with the MK as an institution? Is there a need to start anew with a clean slate?
First, some context. Corruption happens. It’s impossible to prevent all public officials from engaging in corruption all the time. Just last year, in the neighboring Philippines, Chief Justice Renato Corona was impeached and convicted
on a variety of corruption allegations. Even the U.S. Supreme Court has not been immune to corruption. In 1969, Justice Abe Fortas
resigned amid allegations that he accepted a large sum of money from a financier who was under government investigation.
More importantly, there were plenty of signs even before October 2013 that Akil Mochtar’s appointment might embroil the MK in ethical problems. Back in 2006, Indonesian Corruption Watch alleged that Akil had taken money while serving on a government commission for redistricting. Several NGOs openly opposed his appointment to the MK in 2008 pointing to past allegations of corruption. In 2010, elections lawyer Refly Harun famously accused
Akil Mochtar of having received money from a candidate in a North Sumatra regency election (an internal investigation held that there was insufficient evidence to discipline Akil).
None of this is to say that the MK can afford to be complacent. There is a very active and productive debate currently ongoing in Indonesia about enforcing ethics in the MK. However, that debate is largely taking place amongst lawyers, NGOs, politicians, and the rest of the Jakarta elite. To many Indonesians, there is a real risk that the Akil Mochtar scandal is their first and most enduring impression of the court. They have no reason to believe that Akil’s corruption did not taint the rest of the court. The MK does need to find a way to rebuild its credibility. If the MK attempts a “business as usual” approach, it might well face increased calls for wholesale reform.
Indonesia’s Constitutional Court (Mahkamah Konstitusi
) met earlier today to elect a new chief justice, former deputy chief Hamdan Zoelva. Chief Justice Hamdan won an internal vote of the eight remaining justices. According to Kompas
, the main challenger was Arief Hidayat, a relatively new justice. It is not clear what the final vote tally was, but it appears that there were at least two rounds to the voting. Given that there were only eight justices present, it is possible that one vote ended up in a tie.
According to Kompas
, after his election, Chief Justice Hamdan Zoelva gave a speech warning about the dangers of corruption and declaring the need to detect possibly corrupt activities amongst justices and court employees early.
Interestingly, Hamdan continues the tradition of Akil Mochtar, but also of Mahfud MD, of having served in the DPR and been affiliated with a political party (in Hamdan’s case, the PBB or Crescent Star Party). However, unlike his predecessors, Hamdan was chosen by the president, not by the DPR. Thus far, MK justices have not voted in clear blocs aligning with their appointing body (i.e., presidential appointees don’t all vote the same). Hamdan also has considerable experience in private sector practice. As such, it will be interesting to see if his background influences his management style as chief justice.
In other news, according to The Jakarta Globe
, the MK’s internal ethics has officially discharged Akil Mochtar for violations of the judicial code of conduct.