Opposition grows ahead of court ruling on presidential age limit

The Constitutional Court's ruling could widely reshape political alliances ahead of the February election.

Dio Suhenda

Dio Suhenda

The Jakarta Post


The Constitutional Court building in Jakarta. PHOTO: KOMPAS/THE JAKARTA POST

October 16, 2023

JAKARTA – With all eyes on the Constitutional Court ahead of Monday’s ruling on the requirements for presidential and vice-presidential candidates, critics have called on court justices to reject the proposals amid fear of judicial overreach.

The Constitutional Court is set to announce its ruling on Monday morning, in a decision which could widely reshape political alliances ahead of the February election.

The Indonesia Solidarity Party (PSI), now chaired by President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s youngest son, Kaesang Pangarep, is one of the petitioners asking the court to lower the minimum age from 40 to 35 on the grounds that the existing age limit was discriminatory. Other petitions seek to maintain the current minimum age requirement but with the addition of an exception for candidates who have experience as regional heads or deputy regional heads.

Observers have called on justices to instead reject these petitions, saying that the Constitutional Court has no jurisdiction over age limits, and that the matter should instead be hashed out between lawmakers and government policymakers.

“[Age limits] have nothing to do with the Constitution. This falls under the authority of the lawmakers to decide,” Violla Reininda of the Indonesian Center for Law and Policy Studies (PSHK) told The Jakarta Post on Sunday.

Ruling in favor of the petitioners, she went on to say, would hurt the court’s credibility, particularly since it would pave the way for Jokowi’s eldest son, the 36-year-old mayor of Surakarta, Gibran Rakabumi Raka, to be named as a vice-presidential candidate.

“We can’t let the Constitutional Court be a way for some people to change the law instantly because of their vested political interests,” Violla said.

Read also: Jokowi’s political dynasty in spotlight ahead of court ruling

Constitutional law expert Feri Amsari said he was concerned about potential judicial overreach, saying that the court should not deal with matters that fall under the authority of lawmakers.

Former Constitutional Court chief justice Jimly Asshiddiqie said that age limits are neither “discriminatory” nor do they violate the Constitution. “Every job, every position must have different requirements. [Age limits] have nothing to do with discrimination [against those of younger age],” Jimly said.

To this end, he said that chief justice Anwar Usman, Jokowi’s brother-in-law and Gibran’s uncle, should ideally have recused himself from participating in the decision-making process of the ruling in order to avoid any potential conflict of interest.

Gibran’s ticket

Gibran has in recent weeks been gaining traction as a possible running mate to Gerindra Party chairman Prabowo Subianto. This is despite the fact that Gibran, like his father, is a card-carrying member of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), which will be represented by Ganjar Pranowo at the February polls.

Prabowo received the backing of Jokowi’s biggest supporter group, ProJo, in a declaration at his private residence in South Jakarta on Saturday, in a move observers said likely mirrored the President’s own preference even though he has yet to explicitly reveal his preferred candidates.

Read also: ProJo throws weight behind Prabowo

Prabowo and Ganjar are neck and neck in recent electability polls and both have yet to settle on a running mate. Opposition figurehead Anies Baswedan, meanwhile, languishes in third in terms of electability. He is running alongside National Awakening Party (PKB) head Muhaimin Iskandar.

While the Constitutional Court is expected to issue its ruling on Monday, a statement from chief justice Anwar during a public lecture in Central Java in September has led to speculation that the court is leaning toward lowering the minimum age of presidential and vice-presidential candidates.

Anwar at the time drew parallels between the petitions and young leaders throughout history, including a 17-year-old war general during the time of the Islamic prophet Muhammad.

“I can’t mention anything about the [court’s] verdict. But, there have been a lot of [young leaders], including the current British prime minister and the leaders of other countries,” Anwar said, adding that his statements were only his personal views.

Political dynasty

A potential vice-presidential candidacy for Gibran has stoked fears of the burgeoning political dynasty of Jokowi’s family, particularly as Jokowi’s youngest son, Kaesang, was named leader of the PSI just days after joining the party, and his son-in-law, Bobby Nasution, is the mayor of Medan, North Sumatra.

Read also: Gibran’s vice presidency may spark open conflict between Jokowi, Megawati

While Jokowi himself has laughed off suggestions that he is building a political dynasty, senior journalist Goenawan Mohammad, a staunch Jokowi supporter, has expressed his disappointment in the President.

“I find that Jokowi is slowly emulating Soeharto by giving his sons preferential treatment,” Goenawan said. He was referring to former president Soeharto, whose sons and daughters served strategic positions in the government throughout his 32-year presidency.

“It turns out that Jokowi, my president, a president who is loved by his people, has given [his children] unfair privileges. I am stunned, disappointed and sad,” he added.

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