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Indonesian chief justice removed

JAKARTA (ANN/THE JAKARTA POST) – Indonesia’s Constitutional Court ethics council ordered the removal of Anwar Usman from his role as chief justice on Tuesday after being found guilty of ethics violations for influencing the ruling on election candidacy requirements, paving the way for his nephew by marriage, Gibran Rakabuming Raka, to run for vice president.

The ethics investigation focused on apparent conflicts of interest due to Anwar’s relationship with Gibran Rakabuming Raka, President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s eldest son, who benefited from the altered candidacy requirements.

Despite the ethics verdict, Anwar will remain a justice but is now prohibited from adjudicating election disputes with potential conflicts of interest until his retirement from the bench in 2028.

The three-member ethics panel, led by former Constitutional Court chief justice Jimly Ashiddiqie, found that Anwar committed a “heavy ethics violation” for failing to uphold the principle of impartiality as he did not recuse himself in adjudicating the controversial petition last month.

A file photo of former Constitutional Court chief justice Anwar Usman reads out a ruling on a 2019 presidential election dispute on June 27, 2019. PHOTO: ANN/THE JAKARTA POST

“The council orders the deputy chief justice to immediately hold a meeting to elect a new chief justice, without [Anwar] having the right to be nominated in the process,” Jimly said on Tuesday.

Anwar had recused himself from ruling on three ultimately unsuccessful petitions seeking to alter the 40-year age minimum for presidential and vice presidential candidates.

But he then participated in a subsequent petition, and cast a deciding vote in a 5-4 tie-breaker in favour of adding an exception to the age restriction for prospective candidates who had served as elected regional leaders.

A number of fellow justices switched sides to favour this position after the chief justice got involved. This overrode the previous rulings and effectively removed the legal barrier stopping 36-year-old Gibran from running for vice president next year.

One of the three ethics panel members, law professor Bintan Saragih, filed a dissenting opinion, saying that Anwar should have been dishonourably dismissed from the bench altogether.

The panel on Tuesday also concluded that all nine justices of the court had failed to keep information on the decision-making process confidential even though it could not find direct evidence of who leaked information regarding the votes to the public before the court read out the controversial ruling.

All nine justices received a slap on the wrist in the form of a verbal warning.

The council maintained that it only has the authority to investigate ethics violations of court justices and not to decide the validity of the ruling on candidate eligibility.

But efforts to reverse October’s controversial candidacy ruling are underway, with four fresh petitions demanding that the Constitutional Court re-examine the age of candidacy question without Anwar on the bench.

The court is set to hold a hearing today on one new petition filed by a law student at Yogyakarta’s Nahdlatul Ulama University demanding stricter requirements for electoral candidates: that the only candidates under the age of 40 who should be allowed to run for president or vice president are re-elected governors of the country’s provinces.

Some experts have suggested that the petitioners could cite the ethics panel’s decision as evidence of a mistrial.