Graft-tainted Indonesian politicians face election ban

Election commission set to bar people with corruption convictions from standing in regional, national polls
Graft-tainted Indonesian politicians face election ban

Members of the  Indonesian Catholics Students Association perform a street play about rights abuses during an anti-corruption protest outside the presidential palace on May 15. (Photo by Konradus Epa/ucanews.com)

Indonesia's election commission is to ban people with corruption convictions from standing in national and regional elections in a bid to stamp out graft among lawmakers.

The commission is to officially announce the regulation later this week.

The new rule will likely see as many as 34 candidates disqualified from standing in regional polls set for next month, according to observers.

The presidential and national parliament elections are due to take place simultaneously in June next year.  

Many legislators at national and regional levels have been imprisoned for graft over the years and some of them have been released and want to run again in upcoming elections, according to election commissioner, Wahyu Setiawan.

"We don't want these people winning seats in parliament or regional assemblies," Setiawan told ucanews.com on May 28.

The commission is expected to officially announce the regulation this week.

The move has drawn huge support from civil society groups, including Christians.

Father Paulus Christian Siswantoko, executive secretary of the Indonesian bishops' Commission for the Laity, said a ban would send out a strong message that corruption, especially among lawmakers, will not be tolerated as it corrodes society.

Legislators need to be seen to be clean from corruption, he said.

"Together we must cut the chain by not voting for them to become public officials," the priest told ucanews.com.

Lucius Karus, a Catholic political analyst, said the commission's move represents the voice of the Indonesian people who do not want corrupt officials running for important legislative or executive posts.

"The public has often been let down by those among the elite who are involved in corruption," Karus said.

Yoseph Suhardi, 43, from St. Don Bosco Parish in North Jakarta said the election commission's move is a large step in the right direction.

"I hope the government and parliament support it because local government is riddled with corruption," he said.

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Corruption Eradication Commission chairman Agus Rahardjo voiced his support, adding that political parties should not endorse candidates with corruption convictions anyway.

Vice President Jusuf Kalla said it was about time Indonesia's parliament cleansed itself from corruption. 

One dissenting voice however came from House of Representatives speaker, Bambang Soesatyo, who said a ban removes a person's political rights.

When political parties nominate them, it is based on wise consideration, said Soesatyo, whose predecessor Setya Novanto, was jailed for 15 years earlier this year in a US$170 million corruption case.

"It's not a big deal if a former graft convict wants to serve society again," he said.

"Let the people decide and vote the candidates of their choice."

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