Camouflage of Youth Leadership

Kamuflase Kepemimpinan Muda
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The Constitutional Court is currently reviewing the constitutionality of the minimum age limit for presidential and vice-presidential candidates, as regulated in Article 169 letter q of Law Number 7 of 2017. The age requirement for candidacy in this electoral law is proposed to be lowered from 40 to 35 years. Some constitutional law academics and activists suspect that this material review is solely aimed at extending the power of the older generation or political dynasties.

"What happens is that the individuals change, but the configuration remains the same," said Charles Simabura, the Executive Director of the Constitutional Studies Center (Pusat Studi Konstitusi or Pusako) at the Faculty of Law, Andalas University, during an online discussion titled "Examining the Age Requirements for Presidential and Vice-Presidential Candidates: Analyzing the Potential Decision of the Constitutional Court and the Portrait of Youth Leadership Today" on September 26th.

Charles believes that this matter is closely related to power politics. According to him, the term "youth leadership" is just a camouflage to maintain the power configuration.

"Our spirit is to limit power due to the circulation of power. So, it doesn't become absolute and can grow and develop," Charles emphasized.

Meanwhile, the Executive Director of the Association for Elections and Democracy (Perkumpulan untuk Pemilu dan Demokrasi or Perludem), Khoirunnisa Agustyati believes that the Constitutional Court (MK) should not change the rules regarding the age limit for presidential and vice-presidential candidates. She refers to Law Number 7 of 2017 on Elections that is currently being reviewed by the Constitutional Court. According to her, if there is a desire to change the candidacy age limit, it should be done through a revision of the Election Law.

"This is not about rejecting youth from entering leadership. This is not within the jurisdiction of the Constitutional Court; the discussion should be part of the Election Law revision. So that the definition is clear," said Khoirunnisa.

When discussed within the framework of revising the Election Law, Khoirunnisa continued, of course, all parties can provide input, hold hearings with the DPR, conduct studies, and advocate for it, making the space broader and more comprehensive.

“While, as we know, in the Constitutional Court, the ones who can present arguments are the relevant partyies. So, there may be things that are not conveyed in the courtroom," she added.

Violla Reininda, a researcher at the Indonesian Center for Law and Policy Studies (Pusat Studi Hukum dan Kebijakan Indonesia or PSHK), believes that if the government wants to promote youth leadership, it should not be limited to elections alone but should encompass public affairs and the broader interests of the country. Violla sees other contradictions, such as the increase in the age of constitutional judges from 55 to 60 years, while the age limit for the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) is raised to 50 years.


"Who are the youth that are actually being referred to? So, I think there is no sincerity in promoting youth leadership in general," said Violla.

According to the Spokesperson for the Student Political Bloc [Blok Politik Pelajar], Delpedro Marhaen, there are many dimensions that are overlooked concerning the minimum age limit for presidential and vice-presidential candidates. He believes that youth leadership is synonymous with change and resistance to the status quo. Being young is not just about age; it's about taking a stance.

"When the age limit is lowered, who can access it? Of course, not everyone, only those who have the resources can," Delpedro emphasized. 

There are at least three petitioners who have submitted this. They include the Indonesian Solidarity Party (PSI) (case 29/PUU-XXI/2023); the Chair and Secretary-General of the Garuda Party (case 51/PUU-XXI/2023); and two members of the Gerindra Party, Erman Safar, the Mayor of Bukittinggi, and Pandu Kesuma Dewangsa, the Deputy Regent of South Lampung, in case 55/PUU-XXI/2023.

Perludem becomes one of the relevant parties in the case. Kahfi Adlan Hafiz, a researcher at Perludem, stated during the Constitutional Court hearing on August 8th that the petitioners' petition lacks legal grounds because it is unclear what constitutional rights have been violated. He believes that the petitioners are attempting to persuade the Constitutional Court to establish a legal norm within the law that does not violate constitutional rights.

Kahfi continued by stating that the 1945 Constitution of the Republic of Indonesia (UUD NRI) does not provide provisions regarding the minimum age for public positions. According to him, the constitution grants authority to the legislatures to determine the qualifications, not the Constitutional Court (MK).

"If claiming that the age limit of 40 years is age discrimination, then lowering it to 35 years is the same. Therefore, the issue raised by the applicants is not age discrimination but rather what age is ideal for presidential and vice-presidential candidates. Hence, there is no issue of unconstitutionality," Kahfi stated.

Kahfi reminded that, as an evaluation of the 2019 Elections, almost all stakeholders felt the need for improvements in the electoral framework. The House of Representatives (DPR) through Commission II had drafted an Election Bill (RUU Pemilu), but it was canceled when the bill was removed from the priority national legislative program (Prolegnas). Amidst the election process, there is a desire to change many things, from the electoral system to age requirements, which could create uncertainty regarding Indonesia's electoral legal framework.

"Therefore, the petitioners' argument regarding original intent is legally groundless," Kahfi said.

Kahfi added that the essential importance for public officials is the presence of a government capable of providing good public services to the community, enabling well-being. Therefore, it is necessary to establish strict requirements for public officials.

"Stating that Article 169 q regarding elections is not contrary to the 1945 Constitution and still has binding legal force," he continued.

Meanwhile, in the same hearing, the Gerindra Party insisted on changing the age limit for vice-presidential candidates to below 40 years old. Raka Gani Pissani conveyed this in his statement at the Constitutional Court. He mentioned that age limits should not be an exception for the public to have the right to be chosen as vice-presidential candidates or even presidential candidates. According to Raka, young individuals have the right to run for vice-president as long as they have experience as state administrators.

That the aspiration in the upcoming election can accommodate those under 40 years old is quite reasonable, given the number of young voters and the demographic peak. With the current situation, therefore, even if they are under 40 years old, as long as they have the experience," said Raka.

As is known, the Mayor of Surakarta, Gibran Rakabuming Raka, is rumored to be entering the race as a vice-presidential candidate at the age of 35, which is below the current age limit set by Law 7/2017.  []



Translated by Catherine Natalia