Indonesia's Prabowo challenges election result in court

Former general files formal challenge after supporters rioted, but observers say election was free and fair.

    Defeated Indonesian presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto lodged a challenge to the result of last month's election in the Constitutional Court on Friday after complaining that the vote was rigged.

    The General Election Commission (KPU) announced on Tuesday that Joko Widodo, popularly known as Jokowi, won a second term as president with 55.5 percent of the votes while Prabowo, a retired general, got 44.5 percent.

    Following the announcement, Prabowo repeated claims of widespread cheating in Jokowi's favour, and thousands of his supporters took to the streets of the capital, Jakarta, to protest against the final result of the April 17 vote.

    Eight people were killed, including three teenagers, while 737 were hurt in two nights of rioting, Jakarta Governor Anies Baswedan said.

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    Indonesia's capital was calm on Friday but opposition supporters were expected to gather near the court, which is close to the presidential palace in the heart of Jakarta.

    The election agency has said there was no evidence of systematic cheating and independent observers have said the poll was free and fair.

    "The process of submitting the dispute lawsuit and other legal efforts are steps to ensure that we can carry election results that are free and fair," Prabowo's running mate, Sandiaga Uno, told reporters.

    Prabowo's team has to submit its challenge by Friday night and will need to provide substantial evidence of fraud in order for the court to consider the claim.

    The Constitutional Court must make a ruling on any challenge 14 days after it considers the plaintiff has provided sufficient documentation and the Election Commission should resolve the dispute by June 15.

    Prabowo also lost the 2014 presidential election to Widodo and objected to that result, lodging a complaint with the Constitutional Court that was rejected.

    Indonesian protesters clash with the police during a protest outside of the Election Supervisory Board (Bawaslu) building, following the announcement of the presidential election in Jakarta, Indonesia
    Protesters on Wednesday clash with the police in Jakarta [Adi Weda/EPA]

    'Culmination of months-long campaign'

    In a commentary, Dave McRae, a senior lecturer at the University of Melbourne's Asia Institute, said this week's violence was the "culmination of a months-long campaign to discredit the poll", noting that Prabowo had been making claims about cheating well before election day as opinion polls indicated he was lagging well behind Widodo.

    "Calls for 'people power' if Prabowo was 'cheated' out of victory were a repetitive feature of the last weeks of the campaign," McRae wrote. "But despite the mayhem caused in Jakarta, this week's protests seem unlikely to alter what appears to be broad public acceptance of the election result."

    Police have arrested hundreds of people accused of taking part in the riots or provoking violence, two of whom were members of a group that had pledged support for Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, or ISIS), national police spokesman Muhammad Iqbal said.

    Police had also found envelopes containing money, suggesting instigators had paid some of the rioters, Iqbal said. He added that tests showed some of the suspects had taken the stimulant methamphetamine.

    The government has deployed 58,000 police and soldiers across Jakarta to maintain security and put temporary blocks on some social media to prevent unrest sparked by fake news.

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    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies