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A retrograde ruling

Jakarta Post Editorial - October 17, 2023

Jakarta – In the end, it was an outcome that many had expected and once again, Indonesian democracy is put to the test.

In the midst of growing opposition toward increased dynastic politics, the Constitutional Court ruled on Monday that anyone who has been elected to a regional post can run in a presidential election, regardless of age, clearing the path for President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo's eldest son Gibran Rakabuming Raka to join the ticket of Gerindra Party presumptive presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto in next year's ballot.

Few anticipated a different outcome from the court, especially given that the court Chief Justice Anwar Usman had a conflict of interest. Anwar is married to a sister of the President.

Anwar had even made his personal opinion known on the issue weeks before presiding over Monday's hearing.

Last month, in a public lecture in Central Java, Anwar said everyone should look up to a precedent set by Prophet Muhammad in appointing a 16-year-old as his military commander.

It had also become clear that in the past few weeks the grounds had been cleared for Gibran to be a likely contender in next year's presidential election.

All major political parties in the ruling coalition of President Jokowi had come to an agreement that Gibran would be a unity vice-presidential candidate that the parties could rally round.

For Prabowo and the Gerindra Party's rank-and-file, Gibran is the golden ticket to winning next year's election and the ultimate seal of approval from the President.

To further seal the deal, late last week the vast volunteer network of President Jokowi known as Projo, endorsed Prabowo for February's election.

Following this ruling, we must raise a red flag over the probity of the upcoming election, the game appears rigged to give certain players the upper hand.

We should make it clear that we are all for the lowering of age requirements for politicians to run for office as there should be no discrimination based on age, gender, faith or political affiliation or experience.

But the problem with Monday's ruling was that by using the equality principle the court has deprived other political candidates of access to a level playing field.

Democracy works on the assumption that everyone abides by the same rules of the game and that every player gets equal access to available resources.

The court's ruling will not only put the credibility of next year's election in question but will also cast a long shadow over Indonesian democracy.

Learning from the decision, future leaders could become tempted to resort to the legal process to get outcomes favorable to them and before long we will live under legal authoritarianism.

The ball is now in President Jokowi's court. He can still restore what remains of the integrity of next year's election by ignoring the ruling and not allowing Gibran to join any presidential ticket.

It is normal for any outgoing president like Jokowi to show preferences for candidates in the race, but he should play the game fair and square.

We know for sure that President Jokowi is a leader who has been attuned to the people's aspirations and now we know that the public opinion is largely against dynastic politics.

As for the Constitutional Court, it should heed the call from one of its own justices Saldi Isra, who blasted his fellow judges in his dissenting opinion, expressing his grave concerns regarding the future of the court if it allows itself to make discriminatory and inconsistent rulings based on the political demands of the day.

"Quo vadis Constitutional Court?" Saldi said in his closing argument.

Source: https://www.thejakartapost.com/opinion/2023/10/17/a-retrograde-ruling.htm