Indonesia court rejects bid to overturn President Widodo's victory

Kiki Siregar, Harry Pearl, Agence France-Presse

Posted at Jun 28 2019 12:54 AM

A general view of announcing the verdict of challenge to overturn the official result of the April's presidential election, inside the Indonesia's Constitutional Court in Jakarta, Indonesia, June 27, 2019. REUTERS/Willy Kurniawan

JAKARTA - Indonesia's constitutional court Thursday rejected a bid to overturn President Joko Widodo's re-election victory and dismissed his defeated challenger's claims of widespread voter fraud as groundless.

The court threw out the case lodged by ex-general Prabowo Subianto, saying he did not prove he lost the April vote because of widespread cheating and voter fraud -- allegations that sparked deadly rioting in the capital of the world's third-biggest democracy.

"The plaintiff's case is legally groundless," said chief Justice Anwar Usman. "We reject (his) demand in its entirety."

The ruling paves the way for Widodo and vice-presidential running mate Ma'ruf Amin to be inaugurated later this year.

"Thank you to the Constitutional Court which has settled the election dispute openly and transparently," the 58-year-old Widodo said in a televised address.

"I'm calling on all Indonesians to come together to develop our nation."

In the course of a hearing that stretched over nine hours, the panel painstakingly described many of the allegations -- including vote buying and that biased civil servants favored Widodo -- as baseless.

The court, which questioned the quality of the evidence and credibility of witnesses, said voter-fraud claims were the responsibility of Indonesia's elections supervisory agency and beyond its jurisdiction.

Subianto claimed the vote was plagued by "systematic, structured and massive" electoral fraud that cost him the victory.

His lawyers sought to overturn the official results that declared Widodo the winner with 55.5 percent of votes, against Subianto's 44.5 percent.

After the ruling, Subianto said he would consider his options.

"This ruling is very disappointing for us and our supporters but as agreed we will comply with and follow the constitution," he said in a televised address.

"I will consult with my legal team," he added.

'Game over'

But Subianto, who lost a similar court battle in 2014 when Widodo defeated him, has little recourse, according to constitutional law expert Refly Harun.

"If the claim is rejected then it's game over," he said before the ruling.

Subianto supporter Daeng Wahidin was among the few thousand people gathered outside the court for the verdict, but police barricades prevented them getting near the building.

"The state can make its decision, but I won't accept Jokowi as president," the 45-year-old Wahidin told AFP, referring to Widodo by his nickname.

"I think he was elected through a fraudulent system."

Some 47,000 police and army personnel were deployed around the court and other parts of central Jakarta amid fears of more unrest, but there were little signs of violent demonstrations Thursday.

Last month, peaceful protests against the official result by Subianto supporters erupted into two nights of street battles between police and rioters, leaving 9 people dead and hundreds injured in the city's worst violence in years.

Indonesian police have been in the spotlight after videos surfaced that appeared to show officers beating protesters.

There are also questions about how the demonstrators -- including a 15-year-old high school student -- died.

This week, Amnesty International called for an independent probe into what it called "grave human rights violations" by police against protesters -- including beatings and "torture" -- and allegations that they were behind the killings of demonstrators.

Some of the dead were reported to have gunshot wounds. Police have insisted they did not shoot live rounds, but instead used rubber bullets, water cannon and tear gas to push back the crowds.