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38 ex-graft convicts run in Indonesia’s 2019 elections

The Jakarta Post/Asia News Network

JAKARTA — Voters, be mindful: of more than 200,000 candidates running for legislative seats at the regional level next year, 38 have been convicted of corruption.

After months of legal debate, the General Elections Commission (KPU) has decided that the 38 politicians who had challenged their disqualification at the Elections Supervisory Agency (Bawaslu) would be on the ballots next April.

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The poll body has chosen to abide by a Supreme Court’s ruling that annulled a KPU regulation to prohibit people convicted of graft, sexual assault and drug abuse from taking part in the election.

According to the KPU, 7,968 people are running for legislative seats at the House of Representatives, and 807 for the Regional Representatives Council (DPD). It did not release the total number of people running for seats on regional legislative councils (DPRD), but is believed to exceed 200,000.

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According to the KPU, 12 ex-graft convicts are aiming for a spot in provincial councils, while 26 others are running for city and regional council seats.

Gerindra Party tops the list with six graft-tainted candidates, one of whom is Muhammad Taufik, who was sentenced to 18 months behind bars in 2004 in a graft case related to the procurement of election materials.

Taufik is running for a legislative seat in the Jakarta Council next year while also trying to get the Jakarta deputy gubernatorial post that was left vacant by Sandiaga Uno.

Meanwhile, three former graft convicts are on the list of DPD candidates, including former Aceh governor Abdullah Puteh, who was sentenced to 10 years in prison for corruption related to the procurement of two helicopters for the provincial administration in 2005.

“We only accommodate candidates submitting challenges to Bawaslu,” KPU commissioner Ilham Saputra said on Thursday.

A number of ex-graft convicts challenged the KPU’s earlier decision to exclude their names from a temporary candidate list for Bawaslu, which later gave the green light for several candidates to run in the election.

Ilham added that a circular had been distributed on Wednesday to regional and local election commissions on how to respond to the Supreme Court’s ruling annulling the KPU’s ban, which was meant to boost the nation’s antigraft drive.

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The court argued that the ban contradicted the 2017 Elections Law. It also referred to the Constitutional Court’s past rulings that allowed ex-graft convicts to run as legislative candidates, as long as they announced their record to the public.

Meanwhile, the KPU’s list reveals that there are no graft-tainted candidates participating in the race for House seats.

Ilham said this was because political parties had been unable to replace their candidates.

“These parties tried to replace the ex-corruption convicts with other names from other electoral districts, but we couldn’t grant their request as prevailing regulations won’t allow it. Therefore, we just crossed their names off the list.”

The founder of election watchdog Netgrit and former KPU commissioner Hadar Nafis Gumay lamented that the KPU had not actively reminded political parties to strike the names of former graft convicts from their candidates lists.

“The KPU should give parties the opportunity should they want to withdraw any graft-tainted candidates,” he said.

While activists and election watchdogs had been urging the KPU to mark the names of former convicts on ballot papers as a way to inform voters, Ilham said this would be impossible as the ballots had already been designed.

“Alternatively, we can mark them [in the lists placed] at polling stations. However, we have to discuss that first.”

Gerindra deputy chairman Fadli Zon said the party “won’t disqualify former graft convicts from our candidates list”.

“We support the KPU’s antigraft spirit, but we also don’t want to harm our cadres’ political rights,” he added.

The KPU has also announced that incumbent Joko “Jokowi” Widodo and running mate Ma’ruf Amin, and Prabowo Subianto and Sandiaga Uno had fulfilled their requirements as presidential candidate pairs. 

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