Court allows Indonesia President Jokowi's oldest son to run for vice president, chief justice gets demoted

He was found guilty of "serious ethical violation" for failing to adhere to the principle of impartiality.

Keyla Supharta | November 08, 2023, 05:38 PM

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Indonesian Constitutional Court's ethics council on Tuesday (Nov. 7) decided to demote Chief Justice Anwar Usman from his leadership post and barred him from any decision-making in cases involving the Presidential elections, The Jakarta Post reported.

Anwar happens to be the brother-in-law of President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo.

The decision was made after Anwar was found guilty by the council of a "serious ethical violation" after using his position to help make a court ruling that paved the way for his nephew (and Jokowi's son), Gibran Rakabuming Raka, to run for vice president in the 2024 presidential election.

Change in court ruling

On Oct. 16, the Constitutional Court, led by Anwar, ruled that candidates under the required age of 40 can contest for the 2024 presidency or vice presidency, provided they have previously held an elected regional office.

The ruling made 36-year-old Gibran, who is currently an elected mayor of Surakarta, eligible to contest for the February election.

The judgement faced public scrutiny and prompted allegations that Jokowi had influenced the court's decision, reported Reuters. The president refrained from commenting on the court ruling and allegations. He did say that he was not creating a "political dynasty".

Conflict of interest

A three-member ethics panel led by former chief justice Jimly Ashiddiqiq found Anwar liable of "serious ethical violation" for failing to adhere to the principle of impartiality when he failed to recuse himself.

The controversial ruling was made three days before the start of registration for the election.

While Anwar had initially recused himself from ruling on three unsuccessful petitions seeking to change the age of presidential and vice presidential candidates, he later took part in a petition where he cast a decisive vote in a 5-4 ruling, allowing those who had previously held an elected regional office to be exempted from the 40-year age requirement.

In their ruling, the three-member panel said that Anwar "had purposely opened a room for intervention from an external party" and thus had "violated the principle of independence".

Jimly also reprimanded the court's nine justices for failing to speak out against Anwar's conflict of interest.

"The [bench] collectively allowed the violation of a constitutional justice's ethical code of conduct to occur, without any serious intention to remind one another, including the chief justice, not to," said Jimply, as quoted by The Jakarta Post.

Jimly had also ordered that a meeting to elect a new chief justice be held as soon as possible, without Anwar having the right to be nominated.

Efforts to reverse ruling underway

The council's ruling on Anwar's ethics breach has been praised by activists, legal experts, and complainants, though some express regret that Anwar was not dishonourably discharged nor dismissed altogether.

The council, however, was not able to decide on the validity of the court ruling that changed the candidate's eligibility requirements.

Still, efforts to reverse the controversial ruling are underway, with at least five petitions submitted demanding that the top court reexamine the age limits without Anwar.

Not affected in any way

The campaign team of presidential candidate Ganjar Pranowo and his running mate Mahfud MD welcomed the Tuesday's ruling and praised the ethics council for not allowing Anwar to make a formal judgement on election disputes next year, given the "clear conflict of interest".

On the other hand, the campaign team of Prabowo Subianto and his running mate Gibran said that their team "has ensured that the Prabowo-Gibran nomination is not affected in any way by the court's ethics council decision".

The campaign officials also called on members of the public to relinquish any doubt that Prabowo and Gibran would fail to take over from Jokowi.

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