By Arie Firdaus
Indonesia’s Constitutional Court on Wednesday rejected a challenge to its controversial ruling that paved the way for the son of the term-limited president to run as a vice-presidential candidate in the February 2024 general election.
The panel of eight justices unanimously dismissed the petition, which argued that the court’s original ruling was unconstitutional. In that ruling, which it handed down on Oct. 16, the Constitutional Court made an exception on the age requirement for candidates who wished to run for president or vice president.
“The petition is rejected in its entirety,” Chief Justice Suhartoyo said, reading out the verdict in Wednesday’s decision.
Brahma Aryana, the petitioner who challenged the verdict, is a student at Nahdlatul Ulama University. He argued that exceptions should be granted only to those who have served or are serving as governors and deputy governors.
The judges stated that any decision to change the law should be left to the legislature.
The ruling in October cleared a path for President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s son, Gibran Rakabuming Raka, 36, to run for vice-president.
That decision stemmed from a petition challenging the election law’s minimum age requirement of 40 for presidential and vice presidential candidates.
The court upheld the requirement, but made an exception for candidates who previously held or had been elected regional leaders, such as governors or mayors.
Six days later, Gibran, the mayor of Solo, was picked by presidential candidate and Defense Minister Prabowo Subianto to be his running mate.
One of the nine Constitutional Court judges, Anwar Usman, was recused from the latest case, after the court’s ethics body found him guilty of ethical violations in the October ruling.
While Anwar, who is married to Jokowi’s sister, was dismissed as the chief justice of the Constitutional Court, the ruling is binding.
Jokowi has faced criticism for promoting his family members and loyalists to government positions, raising concerns about his intentions.
Jokowi cannot run for a third five-year term as president and has not publicly endorsed any of the three presidential candidates.
‘A costly lesson’
Abdul Fickar Hadjar, a law lecturer at Trisakti University in Jakarta, said the judges should have known from the start that they were not lawmakers and steered clear of controversial decisions like the one in October.
“They should have acted not as lawmakers to avoid significant changes in wording that could be exploited by certain interests, such as the change in the age requirement for vice presidents in the previous decision,” Abdul Fickar told BenarNews.
“But what happened is there were interests that compromised the principles of objectivity and independence. That’s a very costly lesson.”
Gibran’s candidacy has also provoked lawsuits against the General Election Commission.
On Tuesday, Mochamad Afifuddin, who sits on that body, said several lawsuits had been filed against the commission at the Central Jakarta district court.
One of the suits accused the commission of breaking the law by accepting Gibran’s nomination, but it was thrown out by the district court, he said.
Ibnu Syamsu Hidayat, a lawyer for the Association for Elections and Democracy, said the lawsuits against the commission showed that the public saw through the political collusion of the authorities in the matter.
“When a mistake is obvious, the public can’t stay quiet,” Ibnu told BenarNews.
Indonesia, Southeast Asia’s most populous democracy, is notorious for corruption and nepotism at all levels of government.