Category Archives: Mahfud

Rushing towards reform? (Indonesia)

It’s no secret that Indonesia’s legislature, the DPR, takes a long time to pass laws. As such, in the wake of Akil Mochtar’s arrest three weeks ago, one could perhaps sympathize with President SBY’s latest attempt to impose stronger judicial ethics requirements on the Mahkamah Konstitusi by executive decree (perppu). The decree calls for an ethics council composed of members of the Judicial Commission and the MK. The decree would also prohibit anybody who had been a member of a political party during the previous 7 years from serving on the court.

However, the president’s executive decree powers are limited to responding to immediate crises – . A group of lawyers has challenged the constitutionality of the perppu before, ironically enough, the MK. According to The Jakarta Post, the lawyers have lined up the support of key stakeholders, including former chief justice Jimly Asshiddiqie and law professor Yusril Ihza Mahendra. Former chief justice Mahfud MD has also stated his opposition to the president’s plan, remarking that such a response would be necessary for nearly every government institution in Indonesia.

There are two key questions that will likely arise from this case. First, will the court exercise constitutional review over a presidential regulation? Technically, the MK’s constitutional jurisdiction covers statutes (undang-undang), not regulations. The Supreme Court does have jurisdiction over regulations but has hesitated to exercise that power. However, the legal grounds might be “fudged” here if the petitioners successfully argue that the president did indeed attempt to promulgate a statute through executive means.

Even if the petition passes the jurisdictional threshold, it is unclear if it would succeed on the merits. On the one hand, the MK knows it needs to institute some mechanism to enforce ethical duties on judges. On the other, the justices have formally stated that the Judicial Commission (KY) has no ability to enforce ethical rules on MK justices. In 2006, the MK stripped the KY of any power to enforce ethical requirements on Supreme Court justices (Case No. 005/PUU-IV/2006 ). In fact, the justices even went out of their way to clarify that the KY also had no power over MK justices, even though that part of their decision was obviously dicta. Last week, Deputy Chief Justice Hamdan Zoelva has already announced that the MK would proceed with its own plans to establish an ethics commission, without the KY’s involvement.

Because of the nature of this suit, because the petitioners are challenging a perppu and not undang-undang, it will be particularly difficult for the MK to do what it did in 2011, invalidating the DPR’s attempt to circumscribe the MK’s power to issue ultra petita verdicts. If the MK goes out of its way to invalidate a perppu, critics could portray it as being resistant to the need for reform and then propose even tougher measures. However, the perppu is clearly at odds with how the MK thinks it needs to respond to this crisis. Either way, I imagine this case will be expedited so we should know the verdict soon.

Advertisements

Comments Off on Rushing towards reform? (Indonesia)

Filed under corruption, indonesia, judicial commission, judicial reform, Mahfud, Mahkamah Konstitusi, SBY

Taking matters into his own hands (Indonesia)

It’s pretty much given now that the Mahkamah Konstitusi will be subject to greater scrutiny in the wake of Akil Mochtar’s arrest. Now, according to The Jakarta Post, former chief justice Mahfud MD has opened a complaints center for former litigants who feel their cases were not decided fairly. The center does not seem to possess any legal status to overturn decisions or sanction judges, but it should at least help the court – and Mahfud – stay ahead of the controversy by demonstrating a commitment to transparency.

Comments Off on Taking matters into his own hands (Indonesia)

Filed under corruption, indonesia, Mahfud, Mahkamah Konstitusi

Do Dems want Mahfud?

I’ve previously suggested that the Democratic Party’s primary might give former Mahkamah Konstitusi chief justice Mahfud MD an opportunity to ferry his considerable public support onto a major party ticket. Now, according to The Jakarta Post, senior Democratic Party officials have expressed interest in having Mahfud compete in the primary.

Democratic Party Deputy Chairman Max Sopacua said, “We are open to anyone, Anies Baswedan, Mahfud MD, everybody, they can apply. We have a selection process but we already know that those two individuals are credible.”

Mahfud himself has not made any declarations yet. He has expressed skepticism of some of the country’s Islamic parties, suggesting that their leadership is corrupt. The Democratic Party seems like the best fit. However, as is clear in the rest of the article, the Democratic Party doesn’t seem to have come to a consensus on its preferred candidate. In fact, many PD members want to recruit Jakarta Governor Joko “Jokowi” Widodo, currently a member of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P).

Less clear is whether PD can still aggressively recruit outsiders given that candidates have to compete in the primary system. Would Mahfud join PD in the chance that he might win the nomination? Would Jokowi jump ship for the stronger organizational resources of PD versus the more guaranteed nomination in PDI-P? I’m sure there the party is negotiating with potential candidates behind-the-scenes, but just over a year away it seems as difficult as ever to predict who will win Indonesia’s 2014 presidential election.

Comments Off on Do Dems want Mahfud?

Filed under indonesia, Mahfud, president

Americanization of Indonesia’s presidential elections? (Indonesia)

According to The Jakarta Post, Mahfud has announced his support for President SBY’s plans to require the Democratic Party to select its candidate through a primary system. While SBY’s second term expires next year, he is still the Democratic Party chairman and thus has some influence over the party’s internal governance.

In the interview, Mahfud is coy about how a primary system would affect his own presidential aspirations. However, given his general popularity but lack of influence amongst party bosses, it is easy to see Mahfud performing better in a primary. In fact, this could be a way for Mahfud himself to enter the Democratic Party and sidestep party elders. Moreover, given that most of the other major parties have already proposed presidential candidates, a primary system would have the most impact in the Democratic Party.

While I’ve previously stated that Mahfud’s chances at reaching the presidency are a longshot, my reasons for stating so were his lack of strong party organization. If he were in fact to be nominated by the Democratic Party, that would boost his chances considerably.

Comments Off on Americanization of Indonesia’s presidential elections? (Indonesia)

Filed under elections, indonesia, Mahfud, SBY

Mahfud is running for president (Indonesia)

This doesn’t appear to be an April’s Fools Joke (if only because it’s already April 2 in Indonesia). Former Mahkamah Konstitusi Chief Justice Mahfud MD announced that he is ready to run for president. Of course, according to the interview with The Jakarta Post, he announced, “”If the opportunity is really there, I am ready to be nominated as a presidential candidate.” That’s president-speak for “I’m in it to win it.”

Of course, this isn’t a surprise – many had speculated that Mahfud resigned from the MK in order to compete in the 2014 elections. Nonetheless, it is a bit surprising that Mahfud has come out so openly without at least securing some party support. In the interview, he declared, “Even as of today, I have yet to know which political party that I might use, but basically all political parties have the same ideology.” There’s a risk that this might alienate some parties, as if he is claiming to be more important than the party that nominates him. Mahfud is popular, but is he really in such a strong position? GOLKAR, PDI-P, GERINDRA, and many of the major parties already have de facto candidates (a notable exception is the Democrat Party).

Stay tuned for more news about Mahfud’s candidacy and whether his legacy on the MK hurts or helps him.

UPDATE (4/3/2013):

According to The Jakarta Post, Mahfud has mentioned that he is in “talks” with some of the parties. However, he still seems intent on alienating parties. On Muslim parties, he said, “as we all know some of the Muslim parties are run by crooks.” It’s not clear if he meant to include PKB – his former party affiliation while he was a legislator in the DPR – amongst that group.

Comments Off on Mahfud is running for president (Indonesia)

Filed under indonesia, Mahfud, president

Mahfud’s on top (almost) (Indonesia)

A few days ago, I posted news that Mahkamah Konstitusi Chief Justice Mahfud MD is leaving the court after his term expires next year. I speculated that this is directly linked to his presidential ambitions. Lo and behold, a new poll from Lembaga Survei Indonesia finds Mahfud to be one of the most popular potential presidential candidates. Over 74% had a favorable impression of his leadership ability (second only to Jusuf Kalla at 79%). Moreover, Mahfud scored highest on a question asking about general positive image (79% versus Kalla’s 77%).

A caveat is that the poll does not necessarily ask whom respondents will vote for. Voters can of course respect a candidate but for various reasons choose another, perhaps because of a specific policy proposal.

Nonetheless, it seems the question is not if, but how, Mahfud will run. From the polls alone, a Kalla-Mahfud pair sounds unbeatable. Mahfud, as Javanese (Kalla is from Sulawesi) might even make more sense at the head of the ticket. But all we have thus far is speculation. My guess is that Mahfud will have a more difficult time passing the first round of the presidential voting than the second. In other words, he’d need enough name recognition and a political party apparatus to support his bid and make it past the first round.

Mahfud’s response to all the speculation has certainly not been Shermanesque. According to The Jakarta Post, his response to the speculation was:

I can’t decide now because it will affect my present position as chief justice with the Constitutional Court, as well as at my [academic] institution. Let’s wait until after my term expires in April.

Which sounds like a good reason for retiring from the MK!

Comments Off on Mahfud’s on top (almost) (Indonesia)

Filed under indonesia, Mahfud, Mahkamah Konstitusi

Mahfud’s heading out (Indonesia)

Chief Justice Mahfud announced recently that he will not seek a second term as chief justice of the Mahkamah Konstitusi. When going through his confirmation hearings, Mahfud promised to be less outspoken and to not “legislate from the bench”. However, the chief justice has become a mainstay in the public media, often commenting about hot-button political issues. The court has also taken an increasingly populist turn under his watch. Recently, the MK declared BP Migas unconstitutional because it undermined state control over natural resources.

Many suspect that Mahfud’s stepping down next year will allow him to run for the presidency in 2014. As a former professor of Islamic law, Mahfud has Islamic credentials without being too “fundamentalist”. His decisions from the bench and lack of corruption scandals both allow him to portray himself as a populist. Given the relatively weak presidential field next year, he has a fair shot at president or vice-president. The biggest question might be which party he chooses to join. He was a DPR member from PKB from 2004-08, but I could imagine him forming an alliance with a larger party to pass the electoral threshold for fielding a presidential candidate.

The Jakarta Post has a brief retrospective.

Comments Off on Mahfud’s heading out (Indonesia)

Filed under indonesia, Mahfud, Mahkamah Konstitusi