INDONESIA: Anwar Usman, Chairman of the Constitutional Court (MK), has been found to have committed serious ethical violations regarding a review of a case on the age requirements for presidential and vice-presidential candidates.
As a result of these violations, Anwar has been removed from his position as the Chairman of the Constitutional Court by the Constitutional Court’s Honorary Council (MKMK).
The decision to remove Anwar Usman from office was made during the ethical verdict reading session held by the MKMK on Tuesday (7 Nov), at the Constitutional Court building in Jakarta.
Jimly Asshiddiqie, Chairman of the MKMK, announced the decision, stating that Anwar has been “terminated from the position of Chairman of the Constitutional Court.”
As a consequence of his removal, Anwar is now ineligible to run for or be nominated as a leader of the Constitutional Court until the end of his term as a constitutional judge.
Jimly clarified that “the accused judge is not allowed to nominate himself or be nominated as a leader of the Constitutional Court until the end of his term as a constitutional judge.”
The MKMK found that Anwar Usman, who is the brother-in-law of President Joko Widodo, had violated the ethical principles and conduct of constitutional judges, including impartiality, integrity, competence and equality, independence, and propriety.
In addition to Anwar’s ethical violations, the MKMK ordered the Deputy Chairman of the Constitutional Court to lead the selection of a new leadership team within 24 hours.
The MKMK also declared that the accused judge should not participate or involve himself in the examination and decision-making of cases related to presidential and vice-presidential election disputes, as well as other elections with the potential for conflicts of interest.
The ethical violations under investigation came to light after the Constitutional Court, chaired by Anwar Usman, issued a controversial decision on 16 October 2023, regarding the age requirements for presidential and vice-presidential candidates.
In that decision, the Constitutional Court introduced a new norm, allowing candidates elected through elections to register as presidential or vice-presidential candidates, even if they did not meet the minimum age requirement of 40 years.
This decision paved the way for Joko Widodo’s eldest son, Gibran Rakabuming Raka, to become a vice-presidential candidate in the 2024 Presidential Election at the age of 36, as he had recently become the Mayor of Solo.
Anwar Usman denied any conflict of interest in his involvement in this case. Nevertheless, dissenting opinions from some constitutional judges who disagreed with Decision 90 revealed Anwar’s swift change of stance.
The case was initiated by Almas Tsaqibbirru, a student born in 2000 and a fan of Gibran Rakabuming, who hoped that Gibran would be allowed to run for the 2024 Presidential Election despite not meeting the minimum age requirement.
A total of 21 complaints were officially filed with the Constitutional Court regarding alleged ethical violations and misconduct by judges following the Decision 90 case.
These complaints ranged from reporting Chairman Anwar Usman, calling for his resignation, and reporting all constitutional judges, to reporting judges who expressed dissenting opinions.
Notably, the MKMK’s decision did not address the controversy surrounding Decision 90 itself, as it falls outside the council’s jurisdiction. Jimly stated that the MKMK could not evaluate the Constitutional Court’s decisions. The use of the Judiciary Power Law was also deemed irrelevant in this context.
The MKMK also found all constitutional judges to have violated the code of ethics and conduct regarding alleged leaks from closed-door meetings and practices of conflicts of interest. As a result, all constitutional judges received oral warnings as sanctions.
The hearings regarding the judges were conducted behind closed doors, and the Constitutional Court did not disclose the statements provided by the judges. However, Jimly stated that the MKMK had gathered comprehensive evidence related to these ethical issues.
Jimly emphasized that the MKMK’s decision would not impact the Constitutional Court’s ruling on the age requirements for presidential candidates. He clarified that the MK’s authority was limited to ethical matters and not to alter the Constitutional Court’s decision.
Despite this, legal experts have indicated that the MKMK’s decision is essential to restore public trust, as the Constitutional Court’s ruling on the age requirements for presidential candidates had eroded public confidence in the institution.
Professor Susi Dwi Harijanti, an expert in constitutional law, believes that Anwar Usman should resign as a constitutional judge following the MKMK’s decision. She stressed that Anwar, who was found to have committed serious ethical violations, should not retain his position as a constitutional judge.
Legal representatives of the complainants, such as Arief Maulana, expressed disappointment with the MKMK’s decision, believing that the council had the opportunity to annul Decision 90 due to conflicts of interest.