Indonesian election agencies clash over allowing corruption convicts to run as candidates

The 18th Plenary Session of the Indonesian House of Representatives (DPR) on February 14, 2018. Photo: @DPR_RI / Instagram
The 18th Plenary Session of the Indonesian House of Representatives (DPR) on February 14, 2018. Photo: @DPR_RI / Instagram

In a country where the government is trying to convince the public that politics is not synonymous with corruption, you would think that everybody would agree that allowing politicians who have already been tried and convicted of corruption to run for office again is not a good idea.

But a regulation barring corruption convicts from running as electoral candidates, issued just in July by the General Election Commission (KPU), has proven to be quite contentious. A separate electoral oversight body, the Elections Supervisory Agency (Bawaslu), has brazenly ignored the new KPU regulation by officially registering 12 candidates who had been convicted of corruption charges to run in the 2019 election.

The KPU decided to pass the anti-corruption regulation on candidates despite stiff opposition by members of the House of Representatives (not surprising) as well as Bawaslu and even Jokowi’s administration, who all argued that it’d be contravening the previous election law and infringe on the rights of corruption convicts. The KPU said they were determined to pass the regulation anyways and were prepared to defend it in court (though it has yet to be formally challenged on legal grounds).

Bawaslu announced recently that they had registered 12 corruption convicts to become candidates in 2019, arguing that KPU’s regulation did not prevent them from registering candidates that had been nominated by their parties. (The KPU regulation specifically states that political parties are prohibited from nominating convicted corruptors. It also requires that political parties sign an integrity pact saying they will not do so.)

KPU officials fired back by saying that Bawaslu was obviously misinterpreting the spirit of the regulation and said it would reject all 12 candidates Bawaslu had greenlighted.

“If they remain registered (by Bawaslu), we will then declare that their status does not meet our requirements,” KPU head Arief Budiman told reporters today as quoted by Kompas.

One of the candidates Bawaslu gave their okay to is M. Taufik , a current member of the Jakarta City Council (DPRD) who was found guilty of corruption while serving as chairman of the Jakarta KPU. He was sentenced to 18 months in prison for misappropriating IDR488 million (US$32,900) from the budget for the capital’s 2004 elections.

Taufik, who is rumored to be among the politicians being considered by the Gerindra party to replace former Jakarta Vice Governor Sandiaga Uno, said he would fight the KPU’s attempt to overturn Bawaslu’s decision to allow him to run and has already submitted a challenge to the Supreme Court.

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