Indonesia's constitutional court backs Widodo as Prabowo Subianto's supporters stage protest

Judges unanimously reject Prabowo Subianto's election petition as police fire tear gas and water cannon at challenger's supporters

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 21 August, 2014, 11:17pm
UPDATED : Friday, 22 August, 2014, 9:38am

Indonesia's highest court unanimously upheld last month's presidential election result yesterday, paving the way for Joko Widodo to take over as the next leader of the world's third largest democracy.

The reasoning that has been submitted by the petitioner is not reasonable

The Constitutional Court rejected a last-ditch attempt by losing presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto to overturn the result that he believed was tainted by widespread cheating. The verdict cannot be appealed.

"The court rejects ... all applications from the applicant [Prabowo] by all nine judges," said Constitutional Court chief Hamdan Zoelva.

The Elections Commission last month declared Widodo the winner by nearly 8.5 million votes, or more than 53 per cent of the vote, in the closest presidential poll in Indonesia's history.

"According to the court, the reasoning that has been submitted by the petitioner is not reasonable, according to the law," justice Muhammad Alim said, striking down Prabowo's allegation that votes had been changed.

The court also found that election officials' early opening of some ballot boxes was done in a transparent way.

Prabowo, 62, a special-forces commando during the rule of his former father-in-law, dictator Suharto, questioned procedures at about 59,000 polling stations and wanted repolling in as many as six provinces.

Ensuring a calm transfer of power is crucial for Indonesia as it seeks to assure investors.

Watch: Police fire tear gas as Indonesia court rules on poll challenge

The case was widely seen as a face-saving gesture and has been a common course of action in previous elections. The court has never overturned the result of a presidential election.

Thousands of Prabowo supporters gathered near the court and police fired tear gas and water cannon to disperse protesters trying to break through security barriers shortly after the court began its session.

Witnesses said protesters rammed four trucks into the barriers, sparking the police response. A few people were injured and four were arrested. The crowds later largely dispersed.

About 50,000 police and military personnel were on standby around the capital in case of more violence, authorities said. Some businesses and schools closed early.

Political rallies in Jakarta have been peaceful since the hearing began two weeks ago.

A spokesman for Prabowo urged supporters to refrain from violence.

"We will respect the court's decision because it is final and binding," said Tantowi Yahya. "Prabowo has repeatedly said to his supporters to be calm and peaceful."

Uncertainty over the election has delayed at least one major economic reform policy, as the outgoing government awaits the verdict before launching talks with Widodo's transition team on how to address ballooning fuel subsidy costs.

Indonesian stocks closed at a 15-month high, up 0.31 per cent at 5,206.14 and near a record high.

The rupiah also strengthened against the dollar.

Reuters, Bloomberg