JAKARTA - Indonesia’s Constitutional Court ruled on Thursday (June 27) to uphold the results of the April 17 presidential election that handed President Joko Widodo a second term at the helm of the world’s third-largest democracy.
The decision puts an end to months of political uncertainty, crushing yet another bid for high office by former army general Prabowo Subianto.
The court dismissed in its entirety the challenge filed by the losing candidate and his running mate Sandiaga Uno, who claimed that they were robbed of victory due to “massive, structured and systematic” fraud.
The court’s decision is final and binding, and paves the way for Mr Joko and his vice-presidential pick Ma’ruf Amin to take office in October.
Mr Prabowo said he accepted the outcome, telling reporters last night: “Although the ruling is very disappointing for us and our supporters, as agreed, we will comply with it and our Constitution and prevailing laws. We respect the ruling by the Constitutional Court.”
But he seemed to still search for options – even though the ruling cannot be appealed – saying: “We will consult with our legal team to ask for advice and opinions on whether there are still other legal and constitutional steps we might be able to take.”
In a marathon nine-hour session, the nine judges took turns to read out their responses to the claims filed by Mr Prabowo’s lawyer, rejecting them all as unfounded. The decision was unanimous.
Justice Anwar Usman, who leads the court, said: “The lawsuit lodged by the plaintiff is legally baseless.”
While the General Election Commission’s (KPU) official count gave Mr Joko 55.5 per cent of the votes in the elections to Mr Prabowo’s 44.5, the Prabowo camp claimed it had nabbed 52 per cent of the votes.
But the court rejected this, with Justice Arief Hidayat saying: “The Court is of the opinion that the petitioner’s claim has no legal ground.”
The plaintiff, he said, did not provide enough evidence of its full count of votes for all polling stations to convince the court of its claims, adding that submissions comprised mostly photographs and scans of vote tally forms “from unclear sources”.
The court also rejected claims that Mr Joko’s campaign team had engaged in vote-buying, and that votes for the incumbent were inflated by ballots from non-existent polling stations.
Justice Saldi Isra pointed out that Mr Prabowo’s lawyers claim that 2,984 non-existent polling stations had generated 895,200 “ghost votes” was unfounded as the legal team could not reveal where these stations were, how the vote rigging was carried out and who had benefited.
Mr Prabowo’s lawyers had also said that Mr Joko as incumbent was armed with state apparatus and wide-reaching influence to help him to a win.
But Justice Aswanto said the court, after examining the evidence, “has found no proof that state apparatus was not neutral”.
Citing a video of an appeal from Mr Joko to army and police officers to convey government programmes to the public, the judge said: “That is something that is normal as head of government. This was not a campaign for votes.”
Earlier this month, Mr Prabowo’s team had filed a separate lawsuit in the Supreme Court to challenge the Elections Supervisory Board’s (Bawaslu) decision not to follow up on a report it submitted alleging massive campaign violations by the Joko camp because of a lack of evidence.
This was rejected by the court on Wednesday.
It was deja vu for Mr Prabowo, who failed to convince the court as well in 2014 after losing to Mr Joko by a slim margin of 6.3 percentage points.
While thousands of Mr Prabowo's supporters gathered in the vicinity on Thursday, the streets outside the courthouse were peaceful.
However, fears that tensions may explode, and scattered protests could once again escalate into violence – as they did in May after the KPU announced Mr Joko’s victory – remain. Two days of riots in Jakarta had left nine dead and hundreds injured.
On Thursday, the capital was on high alert, with around 47,000 police and military personnel deployed to guard against another outbreak of violence.
In his speech following the ruling, Mr Joko said: “The Consitutional Court’s ruling is final and we should respect and implement it together.”
He called for all Indonesians to unite, despite their different political preferences, which was necessary for the country to advance and catch up with other nations.