Indonesia’s election commission wants to ban corruption convicts from elections, parliament… not so much

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

Indonesia’s General Election Commission (KPU) wants to implement a rule, starting with the regional elections taking place in 2019, barring individuals who have been convicted of corruption from running for office. You’d think this very reasonable regulation (one which some people less familiar with Indonesian politics might be surprised to learn isn’t already a thing) would be relatively easy for them to implement.

But, as anybody with any familiarity with Indonesians politics could guess, that is not the case.

At a hearing today with Commission II of the House of Representatives (DPR), KPU officials met with representatives of various DPR party factions, as well as President Joko Widodo’s Home Affairs Ministry (Kemendagri) and the Election Supervisory Board (Bawaslu), to discuss their plan to ban corruption convicts.

Every one of them, except for the KPU, opposed the ban.

“Commission II of the House of Representatives, Bawaslu and Kemendagri agree regarding the rule on prohibiting former corruption convicts to restore the rules set forth in Article 240 Paragraph 1 Letter G of Law No. 7 of 2017 on General Elections,” said Nihayatul Mafiroh, deputy chairman of Commission II, at the conclusion of the meeting as quoted by Kompas.

Every single member of the commission said they disagreed with the KPU on the issue. Golkar faction member Rambe Kamarul Zaman argued that the electoral management body did not have a strong legal basis for implementing the rule as the current law concerning the matter (the aforementioned Article 240 Paragraph 1 Letter G of Law No. 7 of 2017 on General Elections) did not prohibit anybody who has served 5 or more years  in prison as long as they disclosed their convict status to the public.

Hanura Party member Rufinus Hutauruk argued that corruption convicts who had already served their sentence could not be punished a second time by prohibiting them from registering them as a candidate.

Commission II chairperson Zainudin Amali offered a softer option way for the KPU to help keep the elections clean — sending a circular out to political parties asking them not to nominate corruption convicts.

The KPU representatives did not seem enthusiastic about that suggestion, nor receptive to any of the other objections from DPR members. KPU Chairman Arief Budiman argued that existing electoral regulations already ban potential presidential and vice-presidential candidates from running if they were found to have ever betrayed the country, committed corruption or been found guilty of any other serious criminal offenses, providing a clear and reasonable basis for applying the same standard to legislators.

Despite the unanimous opposition of DPR members, KPU Commissioner Wahyu Setiawan said they were not giving up on the corruption convict ban yet. The results of the Commission II meeting are not binding  and so Wahyu said he would hold another internal meeting at the KPU to discuss their next move moving forward.

“We respect each other, including the views of the DPR and the government, we hope our views are also respected,” Wahyu said.

A survey by Transparency International published in 2017, showed that 54 percent of Indonesians thought that the DPR was the country’s most corrupt institution, followed by Regional Legislative Councils (DPRDs) at 47%. Many politicians who have served in the DPR and DPRD have been convicted of corruption, one of the most high-profile and recent of which was former House Speaker Setya Novanto.

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