INDONESIA – The Indonesian Constitutional Court (MK) has made a significant decision regarding the age requirements for presidential and vice-presidential candidates, causing controversy and raising concerns about the court’s role in shaping political policy.
The controversy stems from a dissenting opinion expressed by MK Justice Saldi Isra regarding the court’s stance on several judicial reviews of age requirements for presidential and vice-presidential candidates.
Justice Saldi Isra’s remarks came as part of his dissenting opinion on Case Number 90/PUU-XXI/2023, which was brought forward by a student from Surakarta, Almas Tsaibbirru Re A.
In the dissenting opinion, Saldi Isra revealed that during the judges’ deliberations on Case Number 29-51-55/PUU-XXI/2023, the court unanimously rejected the challenges brought by the Indonesian Solidarity Party (PSI).
Kaesang Pangarep, Jokowi’s third and youngest son, recently assumed the position of Chairman of the PSI.
Gibran Rakabuming Raka, the President’s eldest son and the current Mayor of Solo, Central Java, is being considered as a potential running mate for Prabowo Subianto in the upcoming Presidential Election.
PSI had sought to reduce the minimum age for presidential and vice-presidential candidates to 35 years.
Additionally, the cases brought by the Garuda Party and the Mayor of Bukittinggi, Erman Safar, and others, which sought to add alternative experience requirements for candidates, beyond the age of 40, were also dismissed.
“Notably, the Consultative Judges’ Meeting (RPH) on September 19, 2023, was not attended by Constitutional Judge and Chief of the Constitutional Court, Anwar Usman.”
“As a result, the six Constitutional Judges, in line with the ruling of Constitutional Court Decision Number 29-51-55/PUU-XXI/2023, concurred in rejecting the petition and maintaining Article 169, letter q of Law 7/2017 as an open legal policy for lawmakers,” Saldi Isra explained in the courtroom of the Constitutional Court on Monday (16 Oct).
However, a significant twist occurred when MK Chief Justice Anwar Usman, who is also the brother-in-law of President Joko Widodo, attended the deliberations for the case brought by the Surakarta student.
In this case, MK decided to partially grant the challenge related to the age requirements for presidential and vice-presidential candidates.
The court ruled that candidates who were under the age of 40 but had experience as regional leaders, either at the provincial or city/regency level, were eligible to run for president or vice president.
Justice Saldi Isra raises concerns about judicial shifts
Justice Saldi Isra expressed confusion over this change of position, stating, “The factual change in the composition of judges, from eight in Case Number 29-51-55/PUU-XXI/2023 to nine in Case Number 90-91/PUU-XXI/2023, is not just a shift in considerations and decisions but a complete 180-degree reversal from rejection to approval, despite the addition of the word ‘partially.'”
Furthermore, Justice Saldi Isra expressed concerns that these decisions could erode public trust in the Constitutional Court, as the court seemed to be drifting into the realm of political questions that should be the domain of the executive and legislative branches of government.
He emphasized that such changes in presidential candidate requirements should be made through a legislative review process by revising laws, rather than relying on the Constitutional Court for these determinations.
Saldi Isra added, “Unfortunately, this simple and clearly visible feature of open legal policy is taken over and made a ‘political burden’ for the court to decide.”
Gibran Rakabuming Raka. (Photo: genpi.com)
Presidential aspirations soar for President Widodo’s son as Constitutional Court alters eligibility criteria
This controversial decision means that Gibran Rakabuming Raka, the eldest son of President Joko Widodo, can now register as a presidential or vice-presidential candidate for the 2024 Presidential Election, as he fulfils the criteria of being a former or current regional leader, despite being under the age of 40.
The case has sparked a heated debate in Indonesia about the role of the Constitutional Court and its power to shape political policies that should be determined by the legislative and executive branches of government.
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