Jakarta. The Constitutional Court has come under heavy criticism after it revoked a provision in the Regional Elections Law that is meant to prevent the formation of political dynasties.
The Court on Wednesday “partially granted the plaintiff’s motion to declare article 7 as not in line with the 1945 Constitution,” Constitutional Court Chief Justice Arief Hidayat, who presided over the case, said in the court’s ruling.
The provision of the law bars those “with blood or marital ties to the incumbent [regional leader]” from running for governor, district head or mayor, or the respective deputy positions.
The restriction was introduced after many expressed worries about the emergence of political dynasties across the country in the wake of the decentralization push that began in 1998.
Experts and activists have long championed the restriction, saying that through the practices of patronage, cronyism and bid-rigging, political dynasties across Indonesia have long been used to embezzle massive amounts of money from regional budgets.
But the plaintiff, Adnan Purichta Ichsan, said that the provision violated his constitutional rights to vote and get elected.
Adnan, a member of the South Sulawesi Regional Representatives Council (DPRD) is the son of the incumbent Gowa district head Ichsan Yasin Limpo and nephew of the incumbent governor Syahrul Yasin Limpo. Adnan’s grandfather Muhammad was also a former Gowa district head.
Adnan is considering replacing his father as Gowa district chief and run in the upcoming regional election in December.
The Limpo family also has brothers, sisters, sons and in-laws in key posts in regional legislatures and the House of Representatives (DPR).
There are least 25 such families that rule in different parts of Indonesia, according to a 2014 analysis by the Republika newspaper.
But no dynasty approaches the scale of that of Ratu Atut Chosiyah, the now-jailed former governor of Banten, who reportedly has at least 30 family members in influential posts, including those of district head, mayor, regional legislator and party chapter leader throughout the province.
Atut and her brother Wawan, a businessman, are now in jail for corruption. Atut’s sister in law is now being investigated for another corruption case.
Judge Patrialis Akbar acknowledged that “an incumbent has access to the budget and power to make policies as well as facilities and privileges which could be used to get himself or members of his family elected,” while reading his arguments.
However, Patrialis continued, the article was also discriminative.
“Article 7 violates article 28 of the 1945 Constitution. The article is also against the law on human rights and violates the principles of civil liberties as stipulated in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Right [ICCPR] which [Indonesia] has ratified," the judge said.
Meanwhile another judge, Anwar Usman, said the law has failed to clearly define the term “incumbent” which, according to him, could result in legal ambiguity.
Experts and activists were quick to condemn the court’s decision, arguing that it legalizes the forming of political dynasties and basically will prevent people with no ties to the status quo from getting elected.
“The Court should have not only considered the restriction from a formal standpoint but also the people’s sense of justice,” political expert Hendri Satrio of Paramadina University told news portal Detik.com.
The decision, he said, “ will also prevent the emergence of new and qualified figures. Because political dynasties will flourish and give birth to small kings and their puppet leaders.”
Nico Hardjanto of think-tank Populi Center said the ruling would allow oligarchies to expand. He added that it would ultimately destroy democracy, as allowing privileged people with ties to power to run for office will lead to unfair elections.
By law, presidents, governors, district heads and mayors are limited to two five-year terms, but Veri Junaidi of watchdog Constitution and Democracy Initiative (Kode) said the de-facto legalization of political dynasties would mean power would increasingly be controlled by a small number of families.
“This will violate other people’s constitutional right to honest and fair elections,” he said.