Indonesia's presidential campaign is in full swing ahead of the February 14, 2024 election day. However, over the past month, the country has been shaken by several high-profile corruption and misconduct cases. On November 23, Firli Bahuri, chairman of the Indonesian Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) was accused of extorting more than USD 800,000 from the Ministry of Agriculture. The case also implicates the former agriculture minister, Syahrul Yasin Limpo. The charges are the first time that the head of the KPK, a once highly respected institution created in 2003, has been accused of corruption.
The allegations against Firli surfaced just a few weeks after the demotion of Indonesia's Constitutional Court Chief Justice, Anwar Usman. Usman was found guilty of ethical violations after issuing a ruling that would allow his nephew, Gibran Rakabuming Raka (son of current president Joko Widodo), to circumvent age restrictions and run for vice president in the 2024 election. The next day, former communications minister Johnny G. Plate was sentenced to 15 years in prison for accepting kickbacks related to construction of telecommunications towers.
Recent cases involving some of Indonesia's top government officials are drawing the issues of corruption and ethics to the center of the presidential campaign. All three candidates have commented on the state of corruption and weak governance in Indonesia and on their approach to the problem. Former Central Java governor Ganjar Pranowo said he would strengthen the KPK by revising the commission's founding law. Defense minister Probowo Subianto denied rumors that he would dissolve the KPK but said he was disappointed in its performance and would gather “legal experts” to devise new ways to combat corruption. Jakarta governor Anies Baswedan, himself the subject of a controversial KPK investigation, called for KPK leadership to sign a new ethical code and for stronger punishment against corrupt officials; punishment that would result in their “impoverishment.”
While corruption has long been systemic in Indonesia, the country appears to be at a turning point with the KPK itself now undermined by graft and impropriety. How the next president addresses this challenge and revitalizes key institutions will be crucial for the future of Indonesian democracy.