Trajectories of Curial Power: The Rise, Fall and Partial Rehabilitation of the Indonesian Constitutional Court
36 Pages Posted: 14 May 2015 Last revised: 7 Jul 2015
Date Written: April 30, 2015
The Indonesian Constitutional Court’s surprisingly early and forceful assertion of its veto role in national politics has attracted a fair amount of academic attention. Contributions to date have emphasised three main explanatory factors: the charismatic leadership provided by the Court’s first Chief Justice, Jimly Asshiddiqie; Indonesia’s fragmented political party system; and the judges’ preparedness boldly to assert the Court’s powers in a way that built its public support. But is the Court still as powerful in its second decade as it was in its first? Two incidents in particular suggest that the Court’s strength may be declining: the attempted legislative curtailment of the Court’s mandate in 2011, and the resignation in 2013 of its third Chief Justice, Ali Mochtar, following his arrest on charges of corruption. While neither of these events has as yet resulted in any permanent change to the Court’s jurisdiction and powers, there is a sense that the Court is in trouble – that its heyday has passed and that it is less influential than it used to be. The purpose of this article is to evaluate this claim. It starts by developing a conceptual framework for assessing the performance of initially forceful constitutional courts. It then moves on to apply this framework to the Indonesian case. Assessed according to its capacity to support the consolidation of Indonesia’s democracy, the article argues, the Court’s power has indeed declined since its forceful start under Jimly. There are some signs, however, that the Court is on the rise again.
Keywords: Indonesia, Constitutional Court, judicial power, comparative constitutional law
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