Jokowi's Feud With Mega Colors Indonesian Politics

Relations between Indonesian President Joko Widodo and Megawati Sukarnoputri, the woman who was instrumental in putting him in power, are continuing to deteriorate, with Megawati’s Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) pushing a bill to diminish the clout of the powerful Corruption Eradication Commission and Jokowi saying he has no plans to revise the law governing the commission.

Jokowi, the popular former governor of Jakarta and a longtime member of the PDI-P, rode the party's machinery to victory in the 2014 presidential election over Prabowo Subianto, his opponent. Today, however, he has little apparent support in the party, few allies in the country’s national institutions and will only need voter support if he runs for reelection in 2019.

The rift with Megawati has been growing for months after Jokowi refused to appoint Budi Gunawan, a close personal friend of Megawati, the National Police Chief in March. The KPK, as the corruption watchdog organization is known, charged Budi with bribery and money laundering in connection with an unexplained Rp95 billion (US$7.13 million) in his personal bank accounts. The KPK alleged he had acquired the funds through bribes and gratuities, including bribes supposedly paid by officers in pursuit of higher police posts. Several weeks of wrangling ensued, with Jokowi eventually appointing Badrodin Haiti as national police chief. Badrodin subsequently named Budi to the No. 2 post, where sources say he effectively runs the police anyway.

The police engineered the dropping of charges against Budi and have used the incident to effectively weaken the KPK through the use of Indonesia's corrupt court system.

In April, at the PDI-P’s party enclave in Bali, Megawati delivered a speech with Jokowi sitting in the audience that in effect told the President he was a product of the party and that his job was to remain in its service. Indonesia’s system of democracy, she said “regulates that the president and vice president naturally enforce a political party’s policy line,” she said.

She said she had faced “many betrayals,” adding that “multiple times I was stabbed in the back” because of “political ambitions for power.” It was a humiliating moment. Jokowi was not invited to speak at the congress. She is also said to be angry because the PDI-P was given only four positions in the 34-member cabinet last October – no more than any of the other parties in Jokowi’s coalition.

In early June, Megawati’s rock musician son, Prananda Prabowo (no relation to Subianto Prabowo), released a song titled “Traitor,” that party insiders say was aimed at two top ministers said to have the presidential ear and who provide a bulwark against PDI-P influence.

It is the KPK that seems to particularly anger Megawati. She has powerful allies in the police and courts who agree that the agency must be reined in. One western observer said the KPK is “toast.” Some military allies of Jokowi have said they will "protect" the KPK, raising the specter of open tension between the two dominant institutions.

According to figures compiled by the Jakarta Globe, the KPK has prosecuted and jailed more members of the PDI-P than any other Indonesian political party. Ironically the organization was set up in 2002 when Megawati was president. In the 13 years since, it has become the most formidable anti-graft organization in the country by far, boasting a 100 percent conviction rate. Since it became operational in 2003, it has investigated and prosecuted 86 cases of bribery including members of former President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s cabinet.

Since the time Jokowi came into office, National Police officials, the legislature and others have been attempting to defang the organization. But the pace has picked up. After Jokowi withdrew Budi’s name from consideration for the top post over the corruption allegations, the police are said to have reacted with fury. In April, a Jakarta court used shaky legal grounds to say the KPK had no right to charge Budi – the first time in the 13-year history of the agency that a trial court has intervened in an action. The police took over the case against Budi and shortly after announced there was no case.

The police have also gone after numerous KPK officials, using a variety of cold cases and questionable charges to drag the agency’s leading officials, including chairman Abraham Samad and his deputy Bambang Widjojanto, into cortIndonesia’s notoriously corrupt courts. Dozens of other officials are under threat.

With most of officialdom arrayed against the KPK, Justice and Human Rights Minister Yasonna Laoly, a PDI-P member, announced last week that he would submit measure to the House of Representatives that would cut the KPK’s powers, spurring Jokowi to summon Yasona to the presidential palace to tell him he had no intention of revising the law, which needs to be included in this year’s docket of priority legislation.

“The government never proposed any amendments to the KPK law,” Andi Wdjajanto, the cabinet secretary, told reporters in Jakarta. “There are 37 bills included in the 2015 [priority package], 10 of them submitted by the government. The KPK law isn’t among them.”

Pratikno, the state secretary, told reporters separately that “the president has no intention of revising the KPK law” this year.

Yasonna has previously said it was necessary to amend the existing law on the KPK, particularly on the extent of its wiretapping powers, one of the primary weapons in the agency’s arsenal. The original law was set up to deny the courts the ability to issue warrants, giving the KPK the ability to listen in on suspects’ voice transmission without being observed.

Yasonna also told reporters that the KPK’s prosecutorial powers should be “standardized” with those of the Attorney General’s Office, an agency that is equally as corrupt as the police and which several years ago attempted in league with the police to frame KPK investigators on abuse of power charges, only to be caught in a conspiracy via a KPK wiretap.

Taufiequrachman Ruki, the interim KPK chairman, urged that no attempt be made to weaken the commission, particularly with regard to its wiretapping powers.

“Our principle is that we don’t agree with any revision aimed at weakening the KPK. Whatever the proposed amendment, if its intention is to undermine the fight against corruption, we will reject it,” he told legislators.