Indonesia’s election commission officially bans corruption convicts from running in elections

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 what will hopefully be another major victory in the battle against the pervasive corruption within Indonesian politics, the country’s General Election Commission (KPU) has officially banned individuals who have been convicted on corruption charges from running in elections. However, legal challenges to the ban seem inevitable so ultimately it will come down to the courts.

Previously, corruption convicts who had been sentenced to less than five years in prison had been allowed to run as long as they met an ambiguous requirement to declare their criminal history to the voting public. Yesterday, the KPU issued a new regulation (PKPU Nomor 20/2018) banning all corruption convicts from running as legislative candidates (another article within the new regulation also bans those convicted of narcotic or sexual crimes against children from running).

The first elections the new regulation will apply to will be those taking place in April 2019, assuming it can stand up to the coming legal challenges. In previous meetings between KPU representatives and reps from the House of Representatives (DPR) to discuss the regulations, legislators fiercely protested on the grounds that it ran contrary to current laws and even argued that it was a violation of human rights (the rights of the convicted corruptors that is).

Somewhat surprisingly, the Election Supervisory Board (Bawaslu) and even President Joko Widodo’s Home Affairs Ministry (Kemendagri) opposed the KPU’s plan on those same grounds. But KPU officials said they would push through the regulation anyways, arguing that they had a strong legal basis for it (corruption convicts are already legally barred from running as presidential and vice presidential candidates) and were ready for it to be challenged in court.


In response to KPU making the ban official, President Jokowi remained cool on the subject, saying he respected the KPU’s right to enact the regulation as well as the rights of those who’d wish to challenge it in court.

Even if the courts decide to uphold KPU’s corruption convict candidate ban, there is still no law regulating the ability of those who have been named suspects in corruption cases from running for office. In fact, in last week’s regional elections, nine candidates in various races around the country were allowed to run despite having been named suspects in active corruption investigations. The fight against corruption in Indonesian politics still has a long way to go, but hopefully the KPU can get this win.

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