Should Corruptors Return To Office?
Former corruption convicts are clearly unfit to represent the people. It's high time lawmakers revised the election law.
The General Elections Commission's (KPU) plan to ban former corruption convicts from running for legislature is crucial for improving the quality of our democracy. Even without the ban, political parties should know better and refrain from nominating corruptors in the upcoming 2019 general elections.
The experiences of many countries have proven that the quality of an election is greatly determined by the integrity of the candidates, voters' rationality and the elections commission's independence. Without these components, an election will end up being a mere procedural exercise that fails to improve the substance of democracy.
Politicians convicted of corruption have betrayed public trust. It is unbecoming for them to again nominate themselves as the peoples' representatives. Corruptors should not be given the opportunity to come to power precisely because of their past abuse of power. To allow them to run for office is to open the door for them to repeat past offences.
The argument of some House of Representatives (DPR) members that the KPU's plan is in violation of basic human rights does not hold water. The right to be elected as a public official is not a non-derogable right like the right to life, or the right to freedom from slavery. The right to be elected can and should be restricted for the interest of the wider public.
Political parties, the DPR and the government should instead come together and back KPU's planned policy. Their support is needed because Law No. 7/2017 on General Elections does not explicitly ban former corruption convicts from running for legislature.
In essence, Chapter 240 in this law prohibits former convicts who have been sentenced to more than five years in prison from running in legislative elections; however, in line with a Constitutional Court ruling, the chapter makes an exception for former convicts willing to publicly announce their criminal records.
This opening should not be taken advantage of by political parties who wish to nominate corruptors. Caution in choosing candidates to lead this country is also the spirit of chapter 169 in the election law, which requires presidential and vice-presidential candidates to have never betrayed their country nor committed corruption crimes as well as other serious criminal acts. But for some reason, this important requirement disappeared from the clause of legislative candidates. We should support KPU policy if we all agree that the integrity of legislative members should be more important than the integrity of executives the former are tasked with monitoring the later.
President Joko Widodo's weak stance in the issue is highly regrettable. He argues that every citizen has the right to be elected when he should be giving his support to the KPU by pushing to revise the election law. He could have also issued a government regulation in lieu of law to give legal force to KPU's plan.
Jokowi's advice to KPU to mark all former corruption convicts is not a solution. After all, given the chance, fraudsters will not hesitate to fraud, and the public may end up rooting for the wrong horse. We must also take into account that some in our society are still vulnerable to electoral bribery.
The government, the DPR and political leaders must not destroy the quality of our democracy by nominating thieves of state funds. If parties show no concern, rational voters will sanction them by not voting for former convict candidates for legislature as well as their supporting parties.