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article imageHeavy security as Indonesia court set to rule on election-rigging claims

By Harry PEARL (AFP)     Jun 27, 2019 in World

A top Indonesian court was set to rule Thursday on a defeated presidential election challenger's claims that the 2019 race was rigged against him -- allegations that sparked deadly rioting in Jakarta.

Tens of thousands of military and police were deployed in the capital of the world's third-biggest democracy amid fears of more unrest after Thursday's decision, as protesters gathered outside the Constitutional Court.

The court is weighing ex-general Prabowo Subianto's claims that the April poll was plagued by "systematic, structured and massive" electoral fraud that cost him victory.

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

But Subianto's legal team argued that Widodo mobilised the power of the state to win the vote and broke campaign finance rules, and that up to 30 million votes were "stolen".

Over the course of more than eight hours Thursday, the nine-judge panel painstakingly described many of the allegations -- including vote buying and that biased civil servants favoured Widodo -- as baseless.

Tens of thousands of military and police were deployed in Jakarta amid fears of more unrest
Tens of thousands of military and police were deployed in Jakarta amid fears of more unrest

The court, which also questioned the quality of the evidence and the credibility of witnesses, said voter-fraud claims were the responsibility of Bawaslu, the elections supervisory agency, and beyond its remit.

It was not immediately clear at what time the final ruling would be delivered.

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

Some 47,000 police and army personnel were deployed around the court and other parts of central Jakarta amid fears of more unrest.

"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."

- Heavy security -

But election officials have discounted Subianto's cheating claims, and many legal analysts tipped the lawsuit to fail due to weak evidence.

Subianto, who lost a similar court battle in 2014 when Widodo defeated him, has little recourse if the court rules against him again.

"If the claim is rejected then it's game over" for Subianto, said constitutional law expert Refly Harun.

Ex-general Prabowo Subianto's supporters have demonstrated outside Indonesia's Constitutio...
Ex-general Prabowo Subianto's supporters have demonstrated outside Indonesia's Constitutional court

However, an unexpected victory could mean holding another election in certain regions or even disqualifying Widodo, he added.

Last month, peaceful protests against the official result by Subianto supporters erupted into two nights of street battles between police and rioters, leaving nine people dead and hundreds injured in the capital'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.

Meanwhile, several Subianto allies have recently been arrested, including former army general Kivlan Zen over his alleged links to the Jakarta riots.

Police have also aired video from several arrested suspects who claimed that Zen masterminded a failed plot to sow chaos by killing four senior government officials, including its chief security minister and the president's top intelligence adviser.

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