JAKARTA: The ex-general who lost Indonesia’s presidential election to Joko Widodo will challenge the result in court, his campaign team said on Wednesday, a move that could spell weeks of uncertainty for the country.
Widodo, the reform-minded governor of Jakarta is seen as a break from the autocratic era of dictator Suharto, was named the winner on Tuesday, with results showing he resoundingly defeated his only rival Prabowo Subianto.
Before the result was announced in the world’s third biggest democracy, Prabowo—who had also claimed victory in the July 9 vote —angrily announced he was withdrawing from the election race.
He claimed Widodo’s side had tampered with the votes during the long counting process.
Members of his campaign team indicated on Tuesday he would not challenge the result in the Constitutional Court, as he had been widely expected to do.
But in a surprise announcement on Wednesday, a spokesman for Prabowo—a top general in the Suharto era who has been dogged by allegations of human rights abuses—said he would contest the result.
“We are in the process of preparing our challenge to the Constitutional Court,” said spokesman Tantowi Yahya.
Prabowo’s brother Hashim Djojohadikusumo, a wealthy businessman who has provided financial backing for the campaign, added: “We are looking for justice . . . We are expecting some fairness.”
He also urged foreign leaders not to congratulate Widodo, as “the legal process has not ended yet.” US Secretary of State John Kerry and Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott are among those who have already sent their congratulations.
A spokesman for Widodo’s team, Anies Baswedan, suggested the court may not even accept the challenge.
“The court has always been selective in accepting cases,” he told Agence France-Presse.
“Only cases that have merit and the possibility of changing results will be welcome,” he added.
Likely to fail
While experts believe there is little chance of a challenge succeeding, Prabowo’s gambit may nevertheless prolong uncertainty for several more weeks, as the court does not have to issue a ruling until late August.
There have been concerns about the court’s impartiality after its former chief justice was jailed for life last month for accepting bribes in return for favorable rulings in local election disputes.
However, analysts believe the court will be desperate to appear clean following the scandal, and the magnitude of Widodo’s victory—he won by some 8.4 million votes—means any challenge is likely to fail.
The court would be unlikely to shift such a large number of votes from one candidate to another, said Yohanes Sulaiman, an analyst from the Indonesian Defense University.
“But I don’t think Prabowo is going to go to court demanding he has won. I think he will show evidence of cheating and the court could then call for a revote,” Sulaiman told Agence France-Presse.
However, he added this was unlikely as the election commission had been “very transparent.”
Independent analysts in the world’s most populous Muslim-majority nation have said there were some instances of cheating at the election, but in general the poll was free and fair.
The election was the tightest and most divisive since the end of the three-decade Suharto dictatorship in 1998, with each side accusing the other of seeking to rig the outcome.
Widodo Tuesday urged the country to unite following the bitter battle.
“We are strong because we are one, we are one because we are strong,” he said in a speech.
Widodo’s victory capped a meteoric rise for the former furniture exporter who was born in a riverbank slum, and won legions of fans with his common touch during his time as Jakarta governor.
It was welcomed by investors in early trade on Wednesday, with stocks climbing up to 1.0 percent and the rupiah strengthening. The official result on Tuesday showed Widodo had won 53.15 percent of the vote to 46.85 percent for Prabowo.