Indonesia election: What you need to know about Prabowo's legal challenge of the results

Indonesian presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto (left) and running mate Sandiaga Uno at a news conference after election results were announced in Jakarta on May 21, 2019.
Indonesian presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto (left) and running mate Sandiaga Uno at a news conference after election results were announced in Jakarta on May 21, 2019.PHOTO: REUTERS

JAKARTA - Presidential hopeful Prabowo Subianto and his running mate Sandiaga Uno on Friday (May 24) filed a lawsuit with Indonesia's Constitutional Court, in a bid to overturn the incumbent President Joko Widodo's victory at the April 17 polls.

The Straits Times outlines their case against the elections commission's handling of the polls and its vote counting process.

ON WHAT GROUNDS ARE MR PRABOWO AND MR SANDIAGA CONTESTING THE ELECTION RESULTS?

The final tally by the General Elections Commission (KPU) shows the President, better known as Jokowi, and his running-mate Ma'ruf Amin, winning the election with 55.5 per cent of the votes to the 44.5 per cent garnered by their rivals.

Mr Prabowo, however, has alleged that the election was rigged in favour of Mr Joko and raised questions over the validity of more than 17 million voters in electoral rolls, the existence of money politics, precast ballots, data entry errors by the KPU, as well as his opponent exploiting the state resources to win the presidential race.

For the record, Mr Joko secured 16.9 million more votes than Mr Prabowo, more than double the winning margin he had garnered when he defeated the former army general when they went head to head for the presidency in 2014.

WHEN WILL THE CONSTITUTIONAL COURT HEAR THE CASE?

A pre-trial hearing will be held on June 14 for all relevant parties, including the lawyers representing the Prabowo-Sandiaga ticket, as well as the elections commission and the President's campaign team, to iron out the legal and procedural issues before the trial begins.

Constitutional Court judges will hear evidence on the case from June 17 to 21. The judges will deliberate case between June 24 and 27, before issuing its ruling on June 28.

The ruling is final and legally binding.

 
 
 
 

 

WHAT IS THE CONSTITUTIONAL COURT?

The Constitutional Court is part of Indonesia's "trias politica" system, which ensures a separation of powers between its executive, judicial and legislative arms.

Specifically, it is responsible for reviewing legal issues relating to the Constitution of Indonesia. It also hears disputes between governmental entities, impeachments cases against the President, petitions to dissolve political parties, among other administrative law issues.

There are nine Constitutional Court judges, with Parliament, the Supreme Court and the President, appointing three each on a five-year term. It also has equal standing as Indonesia's Supreme Court.

WHO ARE THE KEY PLAYERS IN THE HEARING?

The Prabowo-Sandiaga lawsuit is being handled by a legal team lead by former graft-buster Bambang Widjojanto, who in 2010, managed to overturn a regional election result where the candidate had a 10 per cent winning vote margin.

According to The Jakarta Post, his team comprises other legal experts such as former law and human rights deputy minister Denny Indrayana, constitutional law expert Irman Putra Sidin and one of Indonesia's top lawyers, Mr Rikrik Rizkiyana.

Former minister for justice and human rights Yusril Ihza Mahendra will lead the legal team representing the Jokowi-Ma'ruf ticket at the hearing, while the KPU has said it has lined up six teams of lawyers to handle any legal disputes regarding the presidential and legislative elections, which were held on the same day for the first time in Indonesia.

It is unclear if the presidential candidates will be called to testify during the hearing.

IS THERE A LEGAL PRECEDENT FOR SUCH CASES?

The Constitutional Court has never overturned the results of a national election, including a similar challenge by Mr Prabowo after the 2014 polls, noted observers. At the time, Mr Prabowo failed in his bid to overturn the election results after losing to Mr Joko by 6.3 percentage points. The President's winning margin this time is 11 points.

Centre to Mr Prabowo's case in 2014 were allegations that 56,000 polling booths had been tampered with and that affected the validity of some 23 million votes, which ultimately cost him the election then. But the court ruled that the lawyers had failed to prove there had been significant electoral fraud and upheld the election results.

Prior to filing the petition on Friday, Mr Prabowo had also lodged a complaint of electoral fraud with Indonesia's election supervisory agency Bawaslu. But the elections watchdog has rejected his claims on grounds of weak evidence and that the issues raised did not impact at least 50 per cent of Indonesia's 34 provinces.