Editorial: Two Massive Blows to Our Democracy

JULY 10, 2015

There was a time when the Constitutional Court, under the leadership of first Jimly Asshiddiqie and later Mahfud M.D., vied with the Corruption Eradication Commission, or KPK, for the mantle of integrity in a government known the world over for being anything but clean.

But that reputation as a bastion of honesty took a massive blow with the arrest in 2013 of Mahfud’s successor, Akil Mochtar, for taking bribes to settle regional election disputes.

And in the space of two days this week, it was once again the issue of regional elections that shattered the cracked and fragile shell of integrity that the court sheltered under.

On Wednesday, the court struck down an article in the 2015 Regional Elections Law that was meant to prevent regional dynasties from tightening their grip on political power. The ruling was followed with the equally jaw-dropping move to quash an article prohibiting serious criminal offenders from running for regional office.

One can argue, as the court did, that these people have served their time and paid their debts to society, and as such should be afforded the same political rights as anyone else.

But given how notoriously corrupt Indonesia’s judiciary is, where sentences are bought and sold like a commodity, is that a valid argument to make?

This is the same court system that gives religiously incited mass murderers token sentences of a handful of months; that finds any excuse it can to go easy on the rich and privileged; that brings all its dreadful might to bear on the poor and helpless.

No, there can be no justifying any of this. If there’s a lesson from the two rulings issued this week, it’s not just that crime pays – but that it also makes for a lucrative franchise.