The Leaderboard: Angelina Sondakh

Who is she?

Angelina Sondakh is a former Miss Indonesia turned lawmaker whose career path has come to symbolize the worst in Indonesia’s continued efforts to fight corruption in politics. Angelina was elected to the House of the Representatives in 2004 as a member of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s Democrat Party (PD), and was appointed deputy secretary-general of the party in June 2010.

She served as a senior member of the House Budget Committee and the Youth and Sports Committee until she was implicated in February 2011 in two corruption scandals involving government procurement projects.

Angelina Sondakh as Miss Indonesia 2001. Source: Wikipedia, used under a creative commons license.

Why is she in the news?

The Jakarta Anti-Corruption Court on January 10 found Angelina guilty of receiving $3.6 million in kickbacks from the Permai Group, a holding company belonging to former PD treasurer Muhammad Nazaruddin. Permai had won a contract to build the athletes’ dormitory for the 2011 Southeast Asia Games in South Sumatra, and Nazaruddin was convicted in April 2012 of helping rig the bidding for the contract.

Angelina’s four and a half year sentence was criticized by lawmakers and anti-corruption activists who demanded a 12 year sentence. Prosecutors sought a fine of just $25,700 and dropped an additional graft charge related to an Education Ministry procurement project that could have forced Angelina to repay state losses. The perception that she got off light has compounded widespread dissatisfaction toward a government unable or unwilling to curb rampant corruption.

The former beauty queen’s case is the latest in a string of scandals that have tarnished PD’s reputation ahead of 2014 legislative and presidential elections.

What can we expect from her?

Angelina will likely appeal her case, which will remain open while the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) validates key testimonies from relevant witnesses and defendants. The KPK has responded to widespread criticism regarding Sondakh’s light sentence and appealed the verdict, which could lead to a harsher prison term.

Angelina’s refusal to resign and disclose the names of others involved in the scandal further damages PD’s political standing, as does Deputy Secretary Saan Mustopa’s decision to welcome her back into the party despite the conviction. Public anger at Angelina’s case and PD’s reaction to it are the latest indicators that the party is unlikely to hold its House majority through the 2014 elections.

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