Graft convicts for elections

Editorial Board

The Jakarta Post

Jakarta

Jakarta, posted: Wed, September 5, 2018 | 08:45 am

A handcuffed man offering bribe.(Shutterstock/File)

The successful Asian Games have given rise to hopes that some sense of unity may prevail ahead of next year’s simultaneous elections.  Nevertheless, we are bracing for heightened tension in a virtual rematch of 2014, with the same presidential candidates running for the top seats.

Much of the hope for a cool-as-possible campaign period and election lies with Indonesia’s election institutions — including the General Elections Commission (KPU) and the Elections Supervisory Agency (Bawaslu). Their experience, insight, capability of innovation and many lessons learned throughout the Reform Era are expected to increase the commissioners’ professionalism. 

Hence, the outcry over Bawaslu’s decision to give the green light to aspiring legislative members who were graft convicts though they were ruled out by the KPU. 

The KPU ruling states prospective legislative nominees “must not be former drug dealing, child sexual assault or corruption convicts”, as those crimes are “extraordinary” and thus “have damaging effects on society”.   

However, Bawaslu has cited the graft convicts’ constitutional rights — and Law and Human Rights Minister Yasonna Laoly stated that the KPU rule violated the Elections Law, which allows former graft convicts to run as long as they “openly and honestly” announced their status to the public. 

The KPU said it was delaying its decision on one such candidate, Muhammad Taufik, the leader of the Jakarta chapter of the Gerindra Party and deputy in the Jakarta Legislative Council, pending the Supreme Court’s outcome of his appeal. The KPU had earlier demanded Gerindra replace Taufik, who had served 18 months in prison for abusing Rp 488 million (US$33,687) in, ironically, the procurement of election materials.

One drive of the Reform Era has been a public yearning for substance over technicalities in necessary reforms. True, as Bawaslu said, Taufik and several others have met all requirements. But the KPU issued the ruling to avoid repeated corrupt practices by politicians — given the proven vulnerability of the elected to such practices, as their clout includes budget planning, its spending and distribution. 

Alarmingly, Bawaslu said on Tuesday it would likely verify a number of other former graft convicts apart from at least 12 on the list, including those from Jakarta, Bangka Belitung, Aceh, South Sulawesi and Central Java.  

Political parties that field former graft convicts, who have served their sentences, raise questions as to the seriousness of the parties’ efforts in seeking out individuals with integrity. Echoing many people’s reactions to graft convicts making it to the candidacy list, young politicians of the new and perhaps naïve Indonesian Solidarity Party (PSI) questioned whether the parties did not have any better candidates. PSI chairperson Tsamara Amany Alatas tweeted that it was “tragic” that former graft convicts were allowed to run in the elections.  The high cost of politics has indeed made political parties turn to the more experienced among them in accessing valuable resources. This ultimate objective has indeed robbed the people of their right, as Tsamara said, to elect their best representatives.

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