Indonesian court to rule on Prabowo’s election challenge


JAKARTA: An Indonesian court will Thursday rule on ex-general Prabowo Subianto’s bid to overturn the results of last month’s presidential election, with a panel of judges expected to reject his claims that widespread cheating cost him victory.

Tens of thousands of police and soldiers will be on duty at the Constitutional Court in Jakarta and around the capital for the ruling on Prabowo’s challenge to his loss to Joko Widodo in the closely fought election.

Both Prabowo, a top military figure in the era of dictator Suharto with a chequered human rights record, and Widodo, the reform-minded governor of Jakarta, declared victory at the July 9 election.

However official results released after a two-week count across the vast archipelago showed Widodo won a decisive, six-point victory after the tightest, most polarising election since authoritarian rule ended in 1998.

The 53-year-old, who won legions of fans with his down-to-earth approach as Jakarta governor and is known by his nickname Jokowi, is the country’s first leader from outside the political and military elites.

Prabowo — who has been seeking the presidency for a decade — has refused to accept the results.

His team filed a lengthy complaint against the election commission with the Constitutional Court in the capital Jakarta, which rules on poll disputes.

They claim he is the true winner of the election, that fraud occurred at tens of thousands of polling stations, and that election officials failed to order recounts in numerous places where they should have.

However, evidence presented by Prabowo’s team during two weeks of hearings has been criticised as weak, and independent analysts expect the challenge to be rejected. The ruling by the nine-judge panel cannot be appealed.

“They are going to throw out the suit,” said Tobias Basuki, a political analyst from Jakarta-based think-tank the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, adding that the evidence was “very weak”.

Legal challenges were mounted after Indonesia’s two previous direct presidential elections, in 2004 and 2009, and both failed.

The huge team of lawyers for Prabowo, now a wealthy businessman, has been left red-faced at times by unconvincing witness testimony.

One witness claimed to be a village girl from the mountains who supported Prabowo — only for it to emerge later she held a senior position with the ex-general’s party in eastern Papua province.

Security will be tight for the announcement, with around 4,000 police on duty at the court, where hundreds of flag-waving Prabowo supporters have been staging regular rallies.

Another 30,000 security personnel, including soldiers and police, will be deployed around the capital.

Even if he loses, Prabowo has pledged to fight on, telling supporters this week that “our struggle has just started”. His team has also filed complaints about the election with police and a number of other bodies, but none are seen as likely to succeed.

Despite the legal challenge, Widodo has pushed on with planning his new government. He has set up a “transition team” to shape policy and pick his cabinet, and asked the public to suggest who they would like to be ministers in an online poll.



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