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Jakarta Post

Politics could be behind MK ruling

Ina Parlina and Haeril Halim
Jakarta   ●   Mon, January 27, 2014

Suspecting that politics could be behind the Constitutional Court'€™s (MK) decision to delay the delivery of a verdict on simultaneous elections, plaintiffs in the case are considering filing another report to the court'€™s council of ethics.

The Coalition of Civil Society for Simultaneous Elections suspected a 10-month delay in the delivery of the ruling could have given political parties, who dreaded the prospect of having simultaneous elections in 2014 without an electoral threshold, room for political maneuvering.

'€œWe'€™re considering taking the option [filing a report] and are still discussing it with coalition members. No decision has been made yet, although it will not change anything with regard to the ruling, but it is a good way to teach the judges a lesson,'€ a member of the coalition, Ray Rangkuti, told The Jakarta Post on Sunday.

Earlier on Saturday, constitutional law expert Refly Harun accused the court of '€œplaying politics'€ by delaying the reading of the ruling and suggested the coalition submit a report on ethics violations by the justices.

'€œIt is better to report [the justices] to the ethics council,'€ Refly said.

The recent Constitutional Court ruling on simultaneous elections has drawn criticism, as the court appeared to have delayed the reading of the verdict until only three months before the 2014 general election, which justified its decision to rule that simultaneous elections could only take place from 2019.

The new mechanism will take effect in 2019 as the court argued that to impose simultaneous elections in 2014 would create '€œchaos and legal uncertainty'€.

The final decision, however, was made during a justice meeting on March 26, 2013, when Mahfud MD was chief justice. Mahfud is now running for president.

Analysts have said had the court delivered its verdict in March, it would have given the General Elections Commission (KPU) ample time to prepare for simultaneous presidential and legislative elections in 2014.

'€œIt seems there was an intention to delay the reading of the ruling,'€ political communications expert Effendi Gazali, who was the plaintiff in the judicial review case, said on Saturday.

The court ruled in favor of Effendi, who has won support from several names including antigraft expert Saldi Isra, constitutional law expert Irman Putra Sidin, political analyst Hamdi Muluk and activist Ray Rangkuti.

Effendi and members of the coalition filed the judicial review to challenge the 2008 Presidential Election Law, which they deemed contradicted the Constitution.

Current chief justice Hamdan Zoelva is a former Crescent Star Party (PBB) politician, former chief justice Akil Mochtar once served as a lawmaker from the Golkar Party and justice Patrialis Akbar was appointed by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to serve on the court given his close connections with the National Mandate Party (PAN).

On March 19, 2013, the plaintiffs wrote to the court, demanding it immediately issue the ruling before April last year so it would not disrupt preparation for the elections.

The coalition wrote again on May 20, 2013, asking about a possible response to the petition.

'€œThe court'€™s clerk replied in a letter dated May 30, that according to then chief justice [Akil Mochtar], the case was still being deliberated in a closed-door session,'€ Effendi said.

Yusril Ihza Mahendra, a presidential hopeful from the PBB, who also filed a judicial review demanding the court hold simultaneous elections this year, has also accused the court of bowing to political pressure.

Yusril suspected Akil was responsible for a decision to withhold the delivery of the verdict for more than 10 months.

'€œWhy was the verdict read out only now when the 2014 general election is approaching? Based on this, they decided it would take effect only in 2019,'€ Yusril said.

Justice Harjono dismissed such allegations, although later revealed the court had only agreed on simultaneous elections without deciding whether it would take effect in 2014 or 2019.

'€œThere was no pressure from political parties and [we did not have] political interests,'€ he said. '€œ[In 2013, the court] agreed on simultaneous elections. The threshold and the time, whether it was for 2014 or 2019, had yet to be decided at that time.'€

Harjono declined to give details on when the court had decided that its ruling would take effect in 2019.

He then attacked Yusril for suspecting that politics was behind the decision.

'€œHe [Yusril] concluded that based on his own assumptions. The ruling was already made [in 2013] and Akil was tasked to prepare the draft,'€ he said. '€œBut at that time we were busy [with many local election dispute cases] so we had yet to discuss it completely. Not to mention Akil'€™s arrest [for graft].'€