The Jakarta Post
The House of Representatives endorsed on Thursday President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's plan to reform the graft-tainted Constitutional Court (MK).
In spite of opposition from a number of House members who deemed the plan 'unconstitutional', the majority of lawmakers voted to pass a regulation in lieu of law, locally known as Perppu, issued by Yudhoyono in November to reform the court.
Lawmakers gave their final approval of the Perppu during a plenary session on Thursday after members of House Commission III overseeing legal affairs failed to reach am agreement on the new regulation in a closed-door session on Wednesday.
In the plenary session, 221 lawmakers supported the Perppu while only 148 rejected it. Supporters of the Perppu were lawmakers from the ruling Democratic Party (PD), the Golkar Party, the National Mandate Party (PAN), the United Development Party (PPP) and the National Awakening Party (PKB). The Muslim-based PPP rejected the Perppu during the closed-door session on Wednesday.
Opposition to the Perppu came from lawmakers from the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS), the Great Indonesia Movement (Gerindra) Party and the People's Conscience (Hanura) Party.
Yudhoyono signed the Perppu following the arrest of former Constitutional Court chief justice Akil Mochtar on bribery allegations in November.
The new regulation will improve the selection process of justices and create a permanent ethics body to supervise the court.
Under the Perppu, a Constitutional Court justice is not to have had links to a political party for at least seven years.
Justice candidates will also have to undergo screening by an independent selection panel comprising seven people nominated by the Supreme Court, the House of Representatives, the government and the Judicial Commission.
A permanent ethics committee will monitor the court, whose office will be located in the Judicial Commission building.
A Perppu is as powerful as a law and can become effective immediately after the President signs it. The regulation has to undergo a review at the House in the current sitting session, after which lawmakers will decide whether to endorse or reject it.
Constitutional Court justices were reported to have resented the President's plan and had made moves to curtail it.
Unconfirmed reports have said that in retaliation for what they deem as Yudhoyono's meddling in the courts' internal mechanisms, justices are expected to grant a judicial review request to lower the presidential election threshold, a decision that the President would frown upon given its potential to change the political landscape in 2014.
Responding to the endorsement of the Perppu, Law and Human Rights Minister Amir Syamsuddin praised the House for making a 'crucially important' move for the country's democracy ahead of the 2014 general election.
'With the 2014 general election approaching, we need swift and constitutional efforts to restore the public's trust in the court and its justices. I really appreciate the House passing the Perppu,' he said.
Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister Djoko Suyanto also praised the move, saying that the Perppu would be essential to rid the court of corruption.
He also said that with the Perppu, the court could return to its role of adjudicating election disputes.
'If they agree, it shows that there is a mutual goal to restore the image of the court, which is the sole adjudicator of disputes on the interpretation of national laws over the Constitution, as well as the adjudicator of election disputes,' he said after a Cabinet plenary meeting at the Presidential Office on Thursday.
Lawmaker Eva Kusuma Sundari from the PDI-P deplored the passing of the Perppu given its lack of constitutional basis.
'We must reject the Perppu as there are no academic and legal arguments to justify it. Constitutional and legal truths have to be sacrificed this time,' she said.
Eva said that the Perppu was in fact an effort to delegitimize the House.
'How can court justices, who have passed the selection process at the House, be examined again by a panel of experts?' she said referring to one of provisions in the Perppu.