KPK Law polemic: Will Jokowi side with the political parties or the people?

CNN Indonesia – October 3, 2019
President Joko ‘Jokowi’ Widodo (CNN)
President Joko ‘Jokowi’ Widodo (CNN)

Jakarta – President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo stated recently that he would consider calls by civil society to issue a government regulation in lieu of law (Perppu) to annul the recently revised Corruption Eradication Commission Law (UU KPK).

Widodo conveyed this after meeting with scores of social figures including academics, artists and cultural observers at the State Palace not long ago.

Widodo said he wanted to weigh up and calculate issuing a regulation to replace the revised KPK Law which was passed by the House of Representatives (DPR) on September 17. He also pledged to make a decision on the matter soon.

Not long after Widodo announced the plan however, National Democrat Party (NasDem) Chairperson Surya Paloh said that the president and the political parties supporting Widodo are of one voice in rejecting issuing a Perppu on the KPK Law.

“It’s clear that the President along with the political parties supporting him are of the same voice. For the moment there won’t be any [Perppu]. There’s no thought about issuing a Perppu”, said Paloh at the DPR complex in Jakarta on Wednesday October 2.

Constitutional law expert Bivitri Susanti hopes that Widodo will decide to issue a Perppu on the KPK Law in accordance with the wishes of civil society. Susanti was one of the social figures who met with Widodo at the State Palace not long ago.

If Paloh is correct that Widodo will not issue a Perppu, said Susanti, then it is clear that the president has elected to side with the interests of the political parties.

“Rather than what is happening outside, where there have been students who have died, assaulted by police”, Susanti told CNN Indonesia on Wednesday.

Susanti said that Widodo’s decision on the Perppu will reveal his true position on eradicating corruption in Indonesia. During both the 2014 and the 2019 presidential election campaigns he pledge to strengthen the KPK.

According to Susanti, the revised KPK Law which was agreed to by the DPR and the government will in fact weaken the agency which was established in 2002. Susanti claimed that she has already submitted a study on the weakening of the KPK through the revised law to Widodo.

“So if he issues a Perppu this would actually be a really very good move. It would also restore his position [in the eyes of the public]”, she said.

“If for example it’s true (that he won’t issue a Perppu KPK), yes well that means we will be able to assess that Pak [Mr] Jokowi considers his political position with the political parties as being more important than his political position with the people who elected him and he represents”, she said.

The Jentera Law School educator sees Widodo as being trapped between the interests of the political parties and public pressure over the polemic surrounding the revised KPK Law.

According to Susanti, under ideal conditions the people’s representatives such as the DPR members as well as the president should represent the interests of broader society.

In practice however, what the ordinary people hope for is not necessarily with what the people’s representatives want.

“I think that in a situation like this Pak Jokowi should side with the public. Because he was directly elected by us, not by the political parties, right”, she said.

On the other hand, Susanti sees that there is also a lack of synchrony between Widodo and his ministers in relation to the revised KPK Law. This shows that his ministers, who originate from the political parties, are more loyal to their parties then the president.

This position cannot be separated from the KPK’s statistics on the corruption cases involving leading political party members, including the scores of DPR members from the 2014-2019 period. According to Susanti, the large number of leading party members who have been convicted of corruption is what is making the political parties so solid.

“So they are solid, so that the loyalty between the political parties is stronger than their loyalty to the head of the government”, she said.

Al-Azhar University political observer Ujang Komarudin says that Widodo must have the courage to issue a Perppu even though it will go against the wishes of the political parties that support him.

Komarudin trusts that Widodo will ignore pressure from the political parties and listen to the wishes of the public. “He must be brave. If he isn’t brave, yes well he will go against the wishes of the ordinary people and the students”, Komarudin told CNN Indonesia.

Komarudin sees signs that the political parties supporting him are putting pressure on Widodo not to issue the Perppu. Nevertheless, this time he believes that Widodo will listen to input from the public and issue a regulation to annul the revised KPK Law.

If not, Komarudin predicts that the wave of demonstrations by civil society groups, university and high school students will grow even bigger. In addition to this, the president elect will no longer be trusted by the public.

“If there is no trust from students and the ordinary people, then there will be a political delegitimisation”, he said. (fra/ugo)

[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the article was “Perppu KPK: Uji Nyali Jokowi Melepas Belenggu Partai Koalisi”.]