Prabowo fires opening salvo in court challenge to Widodo's election victory

Ex-general claims his loss to Joko Widodo in presidential poll is due to widespread cheating

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 06 August, 2014, 9:46pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 07 August, 2014, 3:54am

Indonesian ex-general Prabowo Subianto angrily claimed widespread cheating cost him victory in the country's presidential election at the start of his legal challenge to the result yesterday.

In a fiery speech at the Constitutional Court as hundreds of flag-waving supporters staged a rally, Prabowo lashed out at the "dishonesty and injustice" of the poll - which he lost to Joko Widodo - and compared politics in the world's third-biggest democracy to "Stalinist North Korea".

[I have] tens of thousands of witnesses [to back my claim]

Widodo, a former furniture exporter known by his nickname Jokowi, won legions of fans with his down-to-earth style as Jakarta governor and is the country's first leader from outside the political and military elites.

Prabowo, a controversial former military figure with roots in the era of dictator Suharto, also declared victory in the July 9 presidential election, but official results two weeks later confirmed Widodo won a decisive victory.

However, the ex-general - who has been seeking the presidency for a decade - has still refused to accept the results.

His team has filed a lengthy complaint against the election commission with the Constitutional Court in the capital, Jakarta, which rules on poll disputes.

They claim he is the true winner of the election, that fraud occurred at tens of thousands of polling stations, and that election officials failed to order recounts in numerous places where they should have.

While the challenge is widely expected to fail, it has nevertheless dragged out the lengthy election process for a few more weeks. The court must issue a ruling by August 21.

At yesterday's hearing, Prabowo delivered a typically fierce speech, saying he had "tens of thousands" of witnesses who could back his claims.

He said the election had been hit by "distortion, dishonesty and injustice".

Yesterday's hearing lasted only a few hours and ended with the nine-judge panel ordering Prabowo's team to revise their documents and resubmit them today.

While the presidential election was the closest since three decades of authoritarian rule ended, Widodo still won by a margin of six percentage points, or more than eight million votes.