Indonesia tightens security ahead of election dispute verdict

Some 47,000 security forces deployed in Jakarta as court to rule on opposition challenge to President Widodo's victory.

    The court's verdict, to be delivered by a panel of nine judges, would be final with no option to appeal [Willy Kurniawan/Reuters]
    The court's verdict, to be delivered by a panel of nine judges, would be final with no option to appeal [Willy Kurniawan/Reuters]

    Thousands of police were deployed in Jakarta on Thursday as Indonesia's Constitutional Court prepared to rule on an opposition claim that the election that brought President Joko Widodo back to power in April was fraudulent.

    Widodo won the presidential race in the world's third-biggest democracy with a comfortable double-digit lead, the General Election Commission's (KPU) official count showed last month.

    But his challenger, retired General Prabowo Subianto, has refused to concede defeat and his legal team has called on the court to overturn the result or disqualify Widodo, citing systematic fraud and abuse of power.

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

    At least 47,000 security personnel have been deployed in Jakarta anticipating protests by Prabowo supporters and police have blocked roads in the vicinity of the court, which has been considering the case for two weeks.

    The court's verdict, to be delivered by a panel of nine judges, would be final with no option to appeal.

    Some of Indonesia's worst civil unrest in years broke out in capital last month after the official results were announced as Prabowo supporters clashed with security forces and called for Widodo's resignation.

    At least nine people were killed and 900 injured in two nights of the violence, with police firing tear gas and rubber bullets and protesters charging them with rocks, sticks, and firecrackers.

    Amnesty International Indonesia said this week police used excessive force and accused officers of torturing several people while trying to contain the riots.

    The rights group has called for an independent investigation into the deaths, which police say they are conducting with the National Commission on Human Rights.

    Prabowo claims cheating

    Prabowo and his running mate Sandiaga Uno have urged their supporters to stay off the streets and "watch the verdict at home on television instead", said Andre Rosiade, a campaign spokesman.

    Both sides have said they will accept the court's ruling.

    Prabowo's legal team sued the KPU and presented in court witnesses and evidence they said showed there was "election tampering in a structural, systematic, and massive manner".

    They claim Prabowo won 52 percent of the vote - against 44.5 percent according to official results - and have asked for the court to nullify the official results as they stand, hold re-election, or declare Prabowo and Uno the winners.

    The legal team has also called on the court to disqualify Widodo's ticket on the grounds that his running mate, Ma'ruf Amin, failed to resign from an advisory position on the board of a state-controlled bank as required by election law.

    The team has also sought to highlight issues with Widodo's campaign financing while claiming he used state apparatus as a campaign tool. It has also called on the court to dismiss all KPU commissioners.

    Many experts say it will be very difficult to prove the opposition's claims and two separate legal teams for the KPU and Widodo have said the allegations are baseless.

    Around 70 percent of Indonesians believe the election was honest and fair, an opinion poll by Saiful Mujani Research and Consulting showed last week.

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    SOURCE: Reuters news agency