November 3, 2023
JAKARTA – The Constitutional Court ethics council says it has found indications that Chief Justice Anwar Usman may have lied about his reasons for recusing himself from a series of cases on the candidacy requirements for next year’s presidential election.
Anwar recused himself from ruling on three ultimately unsuccessful petitions advocating for changes to the 40-year age minimum for presidential and vice presidential candidates, but he then voted in a subsequent petition in favor of adding an exception to the age restriction for prospective candidates who had served as elected regional leaders. Anwar’s vote decided the latest ruling 5 to 4, effectively removing the legal barrier stopping Gibran Rakabuming Raka, his 36-year-old nephew by marriage and President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s eldest son, from running for vice president next year. The about-face decision rendered the previous rulings void.
“There are two versions of the reason behind [Anwar’s] recusal: sickness and avoiding conflict of interest, one of which must be true. The other is a lie,” ethics council chief Jimly Ashiddiqie said after a hearing on the issue on Wednesday.
The ethics council was responding to a complaint from the Election Advocacy Team (TAPP) asking it to investigate the alleged lies. The advocacy group cited the dissenting opinion of Justice Arief Hidayat, which contended that the chief justice had told Arief his absence was due to health issues but had also told Deputy Chief Justice Saldi Isra that it was because he wanted to avoid conflicts of interest.
“The act of lying violates the code of ethics of the court justices. In this case, [Anwar] has violated the principle of integrity,” Gugum Ridho Putra of TAPP told the ethics council on Wednesday, as quoted by Kompas.id.
Read also: Ethics council to probe Chief Justice Anwar
The council is also investigating alleged conflicts of interest resulting from Anwar’s kinship with Gibran, who benefitted from the ruling that altered the candidacy requirements.
The council is considering 20 complaints against all nine justices, with the majority reporting Anwar for alleged ethics breaches on the grounds that he should have recused himself from hearing all the candidacy petitions to avoid conflicts of interest.
All nine justices have been questioned by the council, which consists of Jimly, Justice Wahiduddin Adams and law professor Bintan Saragih.
Jimly said that although the council had seen enough evidence to draw conclusions, it would wait until all complainants had presented their case.
Justices proven guilty of ethics violations are subject to sanctions ranging from verbal warnings to dismissal, depending on the severity of the violations.
The council will announce its decision next week, before the poll body closes the registration period for replacement candidates.
About a week after the controversial court ruling, Gibran of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) registered his vice presidential candidacy with the General Elections Commission (KPU) on the ticket of the party’s chief rival, presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto, setting the stage for a hotly contested three-way race.
Questions have recently emerged about the legality of Gibran’s acceptance as a candidate given that, when he applied, the poll body had not yet changed its candidacy regulations to comply with the ruling.
But on Tuesday, lawmakers on House of Representatives Commission II overseeing home affairs approved revisions to KPU regulations that will bring them into compliance with the court’s candidacy ruling.
The changes were made despite a chorus of disapproval from certain House factions, with the most vocal objections coming from the PDI-P, the largest party in the legislature, whose relationship with the President reached a new low after his son joined the race on a rival ticket.