Court Cuts House Threshold Level For Impeachment
Camelia Pasandaran & Markus Junianto Sihaloho
The Constitutional Court on Wednesday voided a law that set a higher quorum for lawmakers to hold an inquest, which would serve as the basis for the impeachment of an official.
The court ruled that Article 184, Subarticle 4 of the 2009 Law on Legislative Bodies had “no legal binding” since it ran counter to a constitutional provision that established a different quorum requirement for the House of Representatives.
The article required three-fourths of House members to be in attendance, and a minimum of three-quarters of those present to vote in favor of invoking the right to express an opinion, the first step in the impeachment process.
The Constitution, meanwhile, requires a two-third quorum.
Of this number, two-thirds must agree to invoke the right to express an opinion.
“The requirement to pursue the right to express an opinion should use a simple majority,” said Justice Hamdan Zoelva, one of the judges hearing the review.
The court said the minimum requirement for the House to invoke its right to express an opinion “should not be higher than the requirements of the Constitution.”
The court ruling favored 19 legislators — including the Golkar Party’s Bambang Soesatyo and the National Awakening Party’s (PKB) Lily Chadijah Wahid — who had filed for a judicial review of the Law on Legislative Bodies two years ago.
They said the law had set the bar too high for legislators to impeach officials. With the ruling Democratic Party holding 148 of the 560 seats in the House, or 26 percent, they said it was “almost impossible” for parties to reach the required numbers.
The lawmakers filed for the judicial review in 2009 after the House had failed to hold an inquest to impeach Vice President Boediono, who was implicated in the 2008 Bank Century scandal.
Boediono was the central bank governor at the time of the controversial Rp 6.7 trillion ($737 million) government bailout of the troubled lender.
More than 100 lawmakers signed a petition to invoke the right to express an opinion but stumbled in the face of intense opposition from the Democrats.
Bambang welcomed the court’s ruling, saying invoking the right to express an opinion would no longer be hampered by the lack of support from the ruling Democrats and its two major allies, the National Mandate Party (PAN) and the PKB.
Mahfud M.D., chief of the Constitutional Court, said making it too difficult for the House to hold an inquiry could hamper the system of checks and balances used by the state.
While an impeachment would require a two-third quorum and the support of two-thirds of that, Mahfud added, “lesser cases” could use the simple majority rule.
“For example, if 30 percent wants decision A, 20 percent wants B, 15 percent wants C and 12 percent wants D, then 30 percent would be enough to decide,” he said.
“This applies to the right to express an opinion in general,” Mahfud added.