The majority of Constitutional Court (MK) justices have reelected Anwar Usman as the court’s chief justice for 2023-2028.
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The election of the Constitutional Court’s chief justice was tight. Several efforts failed at reaching a consensus among the public servants in charge of upholding the Constitution. After three rounds of voting, Anwar finally gained the votes of five of the nine Constitutional Court justices.
In the first and second rounds of voting, Anwar Usman and Arif Hidayat each received four votes, with one justice abstaining. Anwar received the majority of five votes only in the third round.
Meanwhile, M.K. Saldi Isra was elected as the court’s deputy chief justice in a single round of voting.
The final votes of the nine Constitutional Court justices must be respected. However, the Constitutional Court has hard work ahead of it following an amendment to the Constitutional Court Law.
The amendment to the Constitutional Court Law increased the age of the court’s justices to 70 years and increased the judicial term to 15 years was a political gratification that has created many problems for the court. Institutional politicization of the Constitutional Court by amending the Constitutional Court Law, with another amendment planned for later, makes the institution vulnerable to intervention. Unfortunately, the Constitutional Court has itself given the space for political intervention.
The "dismissal" of Constitutional Court deputy chief justice Aswanto by the House of Representatives (DPR) is a form of the DPR intervening in the judiciary. The visit of the court's chief justice to the DPR, requesting the legislature’s confirmation of the DPR’s nominee for Constitutional Court justice resulted in the withdrawal of justice Aswanto. The DPR then appointed the court’s secretary-general, Guntur Hamzah, as a Constitutional Court justice through an unconstitutional process. The Constitutional Court, which is considered the guardian of the Constitution, also accepted this in a process that could be debated as to its constitutionality.
The problem became even more complex when the content of a Constitutional Court decision was changed. When it was read out, the decision was different from what was written in the verdict.
In its verdict, the Constitutional Court expressed its stance towards the process of changing its justices, stating: "thus, the change in Constitutional Court justices can only be regulated in accordance with the rules". In its decision, however, the word “thus” had been changed to “in future”. The meaning was very different and consequently implicated the constitutionality of Aswanto’s dismissal.
The issue is being investigated by the Constitutional Court’s Ethics Council. Anyone who changes or orders a change to the content of the court’s decision, including eliciting a change, is very far from the image of public servants who protect the Constitution. Changing the court’s decision is a despicable act that will be recorded in the history of the Constitutional Court, and is inappropriate for the public servants who occupy the Constitutional Court.
It is the duty of Constitutional Court chief justice Anwar Usman and Constitutional Court deputy chief justice Saldi Isra to restore public confidence, safeguard the Constitutional Court against various interventions, and maintain the Constitutional Court's independence from executive power. And that is a heavy job.