Monthly Archives: July 2012

Small Protest at Cilacap Prosecutor Office

A demonstration was held on 25 July 2012 in front of the State Prosecutor’s Office in Cilacap.  They demanded that the state prosecute the current DPRD Head, Fran Lukman, for forging a school certificate.  The case originates from 2002 and the prosecutor has held the case since as far back as 2005.  On 8 June 2012 Deputy Attorney-General Marwan Effendi instructed the district prosecutor to prosecute the case.  The central office was reportedly responding to complained filed by a group People’s Movement for a Clean Cilacap (Gerakan Masyarakat Cilacap Bersih).  The chief prosecutor, Edyward Kaban, addressed the demonstrators and explained the current status of the case:

Kajari Cilacap Edyward Kaban saat menemui demonstran menuturkan, pihaknya sudah menerima surat perintah Kejagung tersebut. Hanya pelimpahannya ke pengadilan tetap harus menunggu perintah dari atasan.

Berita acara pemeriksaan, ,[sic] menurutnya sudah dikirim ke Kejagung sepekan lalu, dan kini dalam proses.

Secara terpisah Fran Lukman menuturkan, kasus ini kasus lama yang pada tahun 2002 sudah disidangkan. Pada saat itu yang memalsu dan yang menyuruh memalsukan sudah divonis hukuman. Penyidikan kepadanya pun sudah dilakukan dua kali.

Suara Merdeka article here: Massa Datangi Kejaksaan Negeri.

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KP2KKN: Few Prosecutors Disciplined in Jateng

Suara Merdeka reports that seven prosecutors faced disciplinary action in the first half of the year.  Eko Haryanto, of KP2KKN, claimed this was low compared to other provinces.

Tujuh jaksa di Jateng dijatuhi sanksi karena melanggar disiplin. Jenis sanksi tersebut beragam, mulai sanksi ringan, sedang, hingga berat. Dua di antaranya dari Kejaksaan Negeri (Kejari) Sragen, tiga dari Kejari Purbalingga, satu dari Kejari Semarang, dan satu orang dari Kejati Jateng.

Hal itu dikatakan Kajati Jateng Bambang Waluyo melalui Kepala Seksi Penerangan Hukum Eko Suwarni, Senin (23/7). Menurut Eko, jumlah jaksa nakal di Jateng jauh lebih sedikit dibanding kejaksaan di provinsi lain.
“Tujuh itu didapat dari delapan laporan dan pengaduan sejak Januari hingga Juli 2012. Pengaduan di daerah lain lebih banyak, di Jateng relatif sedikit. Jenis sanksi ditentukan oleh tim pengawasan,” jelas Eko. Tiga dari tujuh jaksa tersebut terkena sanksi ringan, tiga lainnya sanksi sedang, dan satu jaksa dijatuhi sanksi berat. Namun, Eko enggan membeberkan secara detail pelanggaran-pelanggaran tersebut.
Not sure why Eko refused to provide more details.  I personally think names and violations should be made public.
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The Rise and Fall of Bo Xilai

Solid article by Jamil Aderlini on the rise and fall of both Bo Xilai as well as his father Bo Yibo in today’s Financial Times.  It’s been fascinating to follow this case; and it’ll be interesting to see how it finishes.  There was initially quite a lot of dramatic reporting about its implications for the upcoming leadership transition, but this article’s current assessment is that the transition is currently back on track:

Given Bo’s enormous popularity among ordinary people, an unconvincing official account backed by threadbare evidence could lead many Chinese to assume the entire affair was a stitch-up and Bo was the victim of political infighting. On the other hand, if the case against him is presented too fully, with gory details of corruption, murder and plots, then the public may question how someone so craven and deranged could rise to the top of the political system, and scrutiny may turn to other senior leaders. For now, the once-in-a-decade leadership transition scheduled for October or November appears to be back on track. Some analysts are even saying that without Bo’s destabilising presence, a more harmonious and effective leadership will emerge.

The extreme swings in the careers of political leaders that China’s system produces is quite astonishing.

His father during the cultural revolution…

Bo Yibo was sent to prison, where he endured torture at the hands of his fanatical captors, while Bo Xilai’s mother, Hu Ming, killed herself or was murdered while a captive of Red Guards, according to differing accounts.

But after the death of Mao…

His father was the revolutionary Red Army commander Bo Yibo, one of the all-powerful party elders, known as the “eight immortals”, who controlled Chinese politics from behind the scenes throughout the 1980s and early 1990s.

And Bo Xilai during the cultural revolution…

The chaotic tide soon turned against their children and Bo Xilai was thrown into prison at the age of 17. He spent nearly five years in jail and in Camp 789, a labour camp for children of disgraced senior officials.

In the 1990s…

[I]n 1993 Bo Xilai was named mayor of Dalian, thanks in part to lobbying by his father, who by this stage had taken a keen interest in promoting his son’s political career.

But his father’s death in 2003 set him back…

By most accounts, Bo was one of the people considered at the 17th Communist party congress in 2007 for advancement to the nine-member politburo standing committee, which in effect rules China, and he had his sights set on being named at least a vice-premier at that time. But his father’s death in January that year reduced his political clout, and staunch opposition from many serving and retired officials, including Premier Wen Jiabao, ultimately ruined his chances. Bo was sent out to the provinces – to the steamy south-western metropolis of Chongqing on the banks of the Yangtze River.

And before the Heywood case he was tipped to join the nine-member Politburo Standing Committee…

The death of an obscure British consultant had brought down one of China’s most powerful politicians, a man who had been favoured to ascend to the ruling nine-member Communist party politburo standing committee at a once-in-a-decade power transition later this autumn.

Of course individuals rise and fall in democratic systems (the recent Republican primary!), but the swings are certainly not as extreme and the processes driving the swings are very different.

The full article is available here: Bo Xilai: Power, Death and Politics.

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Corruption persists in Hong Kong?

Last week Hong Kong’s Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) charged two billionaire businessmen with paying about $4.1 million in bribes to civil servants in relation to property deals between 2000 and 2009.  Here’s the New York Times:

On Friday, the Hong Kong Independent Commission Against Corruption, or I.C.A.C., charged the two brothers with bribery and misconduct.

The charges accuse the Kwoks and two other men — Thomas Chan Kui-yuen, executive director of Sun Hung Kai Properties; and Kwan Hung-sang, a businessman also known as Francis — of conspiring to provide Rafael Hui, the former chief secretary of the Hong Kong civil service, with the use of two apartments, as well as unsecured loans, in return for unspecified favors.

The case is of particularly interest because Hong Kong’s independent corruption agency is often cited as a model for other countries and Hong Kong is often cited as one of the few countries that have successfully reduced corruption in recent years.  For example, I heard Hong Kong (and Singapore) given as examples of success at a conference last week–see here.   Thus this case could further increase the reputation of its independent agency if it is successful, but I wonder whether, at the same time, it has the potential to partially undermine the city’s reputation as a success case.  I would hypothesise that low-level bureaucratic corruption has been reduced because corruption has been centralized–that a consolidation of political and economic power allowed state institutions to successfully crack-down on low-level (and decentralized) corruption.

New York Times article: Hong Kong Billionaires Charged With Bribery.

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Hambalang Investigation Upgraded

The Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) this week upgraded the corruption case involving corruption in the construction of the $265 million Hambalang Sports Facility in Bogor from a pre-investigation (penyelidikan) to an investigation (penyidikan).  The Reformasi Weekly Review highlights the implications of KPK’s methodical investigation strategy for the Democratic Party, including the Party Chairperson, Anas Urbaningrum, and the Minister of Sports, Andi Mallarangeng:

[T]he decision to upgrade the case status to ‘advanced investigation’ virtually ensures a court trial. In turn, it now seems likely that court revelations will eventually affect the chair of President Yudhoyono’s Partai Demokrat, Anas Urbaningrum, whose wife owned shares in an obscure firm that received contracts in the project. Another figure whom the case will likely affect is the president’s former domestic spokesperson, State Sports Minister Andi Mallarangeng.

However, the KPK intends to apply its customary approach, which is to methodically pursue the conviction of lower-level figures first, using facts revealed in their trials as grounds for subsequently convicting higher-level actors. The KPK’s approach will likely require months of litigation before Urbaningrum might finally become a suspect.

It certainly seems expensive for what is a relatively simple set of buildings and athletic facilities.  For example, compare the pictures below of the London Olympic Stadium, which is estimated to have cost $880 million, with the Hambalang facility:

The case also highlights the importance of the Financial Transaction Analysis Center (PPATK) and its role in tracking financial flows relating to the project.

The website of the Reformasi Weekly Review: www.reformasi.info.

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Philippine Chief Justice Removed

A belated post on the Philippine Chief Justice who was removed from office on May 29, 2012. As I noted here, he was impeached for not declaring $2.8 million held in foreign currency. Note that the amount seems to have declined from $28 million to $4.2 million. This New York Times article noted some of the complex politics behind the case (see here):

The case has been politically delicate from the start and is tied up with a feud between the Aquinos and Mrs. Arroyo, who is a member of the House of Representatives but did not support the impeachment. Mr. Corona was Mrs. Arroyo’s chief of staff before she appointed him to the Supreme Court in 2002. She named him chief justice just days after Mr. Aquino won the presidency. Mr. Aquino and his supporters argue the move was meant to squelch efforts to build corruption cases against Mrs. Arroyo and those in her administration.

Mr. Corona faced no criminal or civil charges, though cases could still be filed against him, and he is barred from ever holding public office. Although Mr. Corona faced an impeachment charge of making decisions that were biased in favor of Mrs. Arroyo and her supporters, the Senate never voted on it because after a conviction was obtained on the first charge, which involved hiding assets — the $2.4 million as well as 80 million pesos, worth about $1.8 million, that he had in bank accounts — the trial ended. The Senate then voted, 20 to 3, to remove Mr. Corona from office.

Mr. Corona’s supporters say that Mr. Aquino is trying to consolidate power by attacking the judiciary. The chief justice has also accused the president of favoring the impeachment in retaliation for court rulings that ordered the breakup of an Aquino family plantation, an accusation the president has denied.

I’m seriously behind in reading my newsfeed and posting articles here for posterity (I see this blog as a form of data collection)–I’ve articles starred for reading/posting from back in April!

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IPSA panels on corruption

Last week I was at IPSA’s world congress in Madrid where I presented a paper on sub-national corruption prosecutions in Indonesia (abstract here).  The list of panels is available here; there were 12 panels in this section (and other panels on corruption in some other sections), so around 50+ papers in total!

Overall the main thing that stood out was a sense in some of the sessions that research on corruption is at an impasse.  This was particularly the case in this panel–Corruption and Democratic Governance: New Approaches, New Evidence–where the President of IPSA was the discussant and was particularly pessimistic.  This impasse was often discussed in terms of the failure to reduce corruption in the past 20 years (the exceptions always mentioned are Singapore and Hong Kong–although there’s been some interesting news on the latter recently).   I think there are at least four reasons for the impasse:

First, the literature is too reliant on large-N cross-country comparisons–I’m just not convinced that throwing more IVs into a regression with TI’s corruption perceptions index is going to move things forward.  There needs to be more sub-national comparisons and carefully matched comparative analysis.

Second, and despite some notable efforts at clarifying the concept of corruption (I particularly like Gambetta’s and Philps’s contributions in the edited volume Political Corruption in Transition: A Sceptic’s Handbook), there’s still a lot of confusion around the definition and conceptualisation of corruption.  Researchers need to be a little more pragmatic–there’s probably never going to be a definition of corruption that applies in every context, but that doesn’t mean we can’t outline and agree on some key characteristics and it certainly doesn’t mean that comparative analysis is impossible.

Third, there’s too much morality in discussions–“no, stating that a corruption eradication institution is not working does not mean that I personally endorse corruption”.  Passion for one’s subject is important and helps sustain motivation–but there needs to be more cold-hearted analysis of corruption.

Fourth, the appeal to culture as an explanation is not at all useful; unless the analyst can be far more specific about what aspect of a country’s culture is responsible for corruption, i.e. specific social norms, values, institutions.

Overall the quality of the panels was variable, as you’d expect in such a large conference/section. (As an aside, I think conference and panel organisers need to shift from a focus on quantity to quality–fewer, better papers would have improved discussion and, in my view, moved debates forward in many of the panels I attended.)  Here’s the abstracts for a few papers I enjoyed:

Rooting Out Corruption or Rooting For Corruption? The Electoral Consequences of Corruption Scandals in Spain, 2003-2011

Pablo Barberá, Pablo Fernández-Vázquez and Gonzalo Rivero

In this article we analyze the electoral consequences of corruption scandals in the 2007 and 2011 Spanish local elections. Previous studies on this case Jiménez (2007); Rivero and Fernández-Vázquez (2010); Costas et al. (2010) have found that voters are not immune to scandals, but corrupt majors barely suffer electoral consequences to their actions. This conclusion is consistent with the consensus in the comparative literature that corruption has a significant but mild electoral effect (Golden, 2006). However, these studies have assumed that voters punish equally all sorts of corrupt practices. We challenge this assumption by distinguishing between two types of corruption, according to the type of welfare consequences they have for the municipality. We find that voters ignore or even reward corruption when there are side benefits to it, and that punishment is only concentrated in those cases in which they do not receive a compensation. Our results also show that the electoral punishment is smaller in magnitude when the corrupt incumbent retires, and when the media coverage of the scandal is not broad.

“Homines Novi”, Transparency and Democracy: Portuguese MPs’ Registers of Interests: A Longitudinal Analysis (1995-2010)

Thierry Dias Coelho

Several studies on corruption have highlighted a major change in the profile of democratic elites, with the emergence of a new type of actors: the “Business Politicians”. Borrowing Max Weber’s words, it is clear that these agents not only live “from and for politics”, but also “from and for corruption”, a quite revealing trait of what democratic representation has turned into. In a way, this economic perspective on corruption is not recent, although it is quite clear that the more transparent politicians’ Registers of Interests are, the fewer opportunities of power selling shall arise. In Portugal, transparency of political elites is regulated by law since 1993. However, it does not apply to all in the same way. This paper aims to present the results of an empirical study on the Registers of Interests of Portuguese MPs, in the period between 1995 and 2010. In order to typify these interests we applied a multimethod approach: qualitative study of primary sources, prosopographical curricula analysis, and social network analysis. We argue that, like in many other democracies, the figure of the “Business Politician” has arisen in contemporary Portuguese politics. In this sense, we found intense conflicts of interests, in what can be seen as a growing collusion between public and private spheres. How can we portray these interests? What conclusions can we draw about the transparency of Portuguese MPs’ activities? To what extent can we speak about transparency regarding Portugal?

Keep on Keepin’ On: Clean Elections and the Evolving Role of Candidates, Activists, and Donors on State-Level Elections

Michael Brogan

This paper evaluates the impact of the federal Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (BCRA) and the implementation of public campaign funding on fundraising patterns of state party political action committees (PACs). Research findings indicate that state party PACs have adapted to these campaign finance reforms by relying more on “super donors,” candidate committees and ideological groups as their primary source of funding. The results suggest that, though BCRA and public funding campaign reform schemes have changed the behavior of state parties, these reforms have not created wholesale changes to the political system but rather tend to reinforce the status quo. Consequently, state party leaders have adapted to these changes very successfully. Therefore the state political parties have not only maintained their political relevance amid federal and state campaign reforms but also have become more influential in the electoral process.

Judicial Commission Smells Bribery in Corruption Courts

The Head of the Judicial Commission, Eman Suparman, admitted acquittals in Corruption Courts due to bribes:

Komisi Yudisial menemukan transaksi suap yang dilakukan hakim di Pengadilan Tindak Pidana Korupsi yang menjatuhkan vonis bebas terhadap para terdakwa kasus korupsi. “Mereka meminta uang kepada para advokat dalam menangani kasus-kasus korupsi yang kemudian dibebaskan,” kata Ketua Komisi Yudisial Eman Suparman setelah memberikan orasi dalam acara Rapat Koordinasi Nasional Ikatan Advokat Indonesia di Semarang kemarin.

Eman menambahkan, testimoni temuan itu berasal dari hakim yang terlibat. Saat ditanya berapa aliran dana dari pengacara terdakwa kasus korupsi itu, Eman menolak menjawab. “Saya tak mau menyampaikan itu. Penegak hukum yang berhak bertanya. Tak boleh keluar dari mulut saya,” kata dia.

Eman juga menolak menyebutkan nama pengacara yang memberikan uang kepada hakim di Pengadilan Tipikor Semarang itu. “Pokoknya kasus vonis bebas (di Pengadilan Tipikor Semarang) semuanya bernuansa suap”. Eman enggan menyebutkan siapa saja empat hakim yang meminta uang kepada advokat itu. “Anda kan sudah tahu,” kata dia.

Ungated version available at the excellent KP2KKN media archive: Komisi Yudisial: Vonis Bebas Terdakwa Korupsi Berbau Suap.

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Corruption amnesties in Malaysia?

I know very little about Malaysian politics but this article in the Financial Times–Malaysian bank chief calls for reform–seemed a bit disingenuous.  Here’s the opening paragraph:

Malaysia must combat corruption and pursue more market-oriented reforms if its economy is to make the leap to higher-income status, Nazir Razak, head of one of country’s biggest banks and youngest brother of its prime minister, has told the Financial Times.

The CEO of CIMB, Nazir Razak, is the son of the second PM of Malaysia, Tun Abdul Razak, and the brother of the current PM, Najib Razak.  They must make him deeply intertwined with the UMNO regime that has ruled Malaysia for the past 40 odd years.  So it seems no surprise, then, that the CIMB chief has called for an amnesty on past corruption.

Nazir Razak has said in the past that Malaysia could look to Hong Kong and other countries where an amnesty has helped to stamp out the issues.

“You could argue that when you do that, you will get a lot less resistance from the vested interests, which is always the problem; then say, the past is the past and we all start from scratch. I still believe that’s what is needed.”

Indeed, a quick glance at his brother’s wikipedia page–here–indicates that he has been accused of corruption in relation to the procurement of defence equipment.   As Rajib Razak indicates (the banker), these are the kind of deals that need to be done to secure relatively smooth transitions.  And his statements signal financial industry endorsement for this.   Given his position (i.e. assuming his bank is a vested interest), one could presumably also interpret this as a threat.  But I don’t know anywhere near enough about Malaysian politics to know whether that is a fair assessment (the family could consist  of factions, I guess).  It seems odd, then, that the FT is presenting him as a neutral figure in this article.

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