Losing Indonesian presidential candidates ask Constitutional Court to throw out Prabowo’s victory

Arie Firdaus
Losing Indonesian presidential candidates ask Constitutional Court to throw out Prabowo’s victory Losing Indonesian presidential candidate Anies Baswedan (right) talks to journalists as his running mate Muhaimin Iskandar listens, upon their arrival for a Constitutional Court hearing in Jakarta on their appeal of the presidential election results, March 27, 2024.
Achmad Ibrahim/AP

Indonesia’s Constitutional Court on Wednesday began hearing challenges to the results of last month’s general election by the two losing presidential candidates, who are urging it to disqualify winner Prabowo Subianto and call for a new vote. 

Both the challengers presented their case in person, with Anies Baswedan telling the court the election wasn’t fair or just, and Ganjar Pranowo alleging abuse of power in the run-up to the polls. 

Last week, the General Elections Commission (KPU) certified that Prabowo, the defense minister who is the former son-in-law of the late Indonesian dictator Suharto, had won the presidential election in Southeast Asia’s largest country by a wide margin. The court is expected to deliver its verdict by April 22.

Presenting his appeal first, Anies highlighted instances of alleged fraud tied to the Feb. 14 vote.

“We have observed irregularities such as the misuse of state institutions to favor one candidate,” said Anies, the former governor of Jakarta who appeared in court with his running mate, Muhaimin Iskandar.

Anies noted the misuse of social aid (Bansos), originally intended for public welfare, being exploited for political gains.

“Did the 2024 presidential election adhere to principles of freedom, honesty, and justice? The answer is no. What occurred was quite the opposite,” he said.

Chief Justice Suhartoyo and seven other judges heard the complaint while Judge Anwar Usman, who is President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s relative by marriage, did not.

Anwar was demoted from chief justice in November 2023 because of ethics breaches related to his decision to alter the age criteria for presidential and vice presidential candidates. The decision paved the way for Jokowi’s eldest son, Gibran Rakabuming Raka, to run for vice president on Prabowo’s ticket.

While Anwar was allowed to remain on the bench, he was barred from hearing any election dispute proceedings.

The 2024 presidential election saw the Prabowo team receive 58.6% of the votes, compared to 24.9% for Anies and 16.5% for Ganjar, according to final totals from the KPU.

Representing Anies and Muhaimin, lawyer Bambang Widjojanto submitted a petition to the court urging it to annul the election commission’s certification.

“The methods employed by President Jokowi to bolster candidate pair 02 (Prabowo-Gibran) resulted in numerous procedural infractions that impacted the election’s fairness,” Bambang told the judges.

He specifically highlighted procedural irregularities, including the alleged widespread appointment of local officials aimed at influencing voters’ choices.

Bambang’s team members also claimed to have uncovered nearly 500,000 manipulated voter lists in Central Java province – Ganjar’s stronghold – instances of ballot papers pre-marked for candidate number two across several regions and polling stations in Malaysia, as well as instances of decreased votes for Anies in certain areas.

Ganjar’s turn

During the afternoon session, Ganjar said his legal challenge was crucial to democracy in Indonesia.

“Our lawsuit is a commitment to maintaining sanity, ensuring that our citizens do not lose hope in our political journey,” said Ganjar, the ex-governor of Central Java, while highlighting how the intimidation had dampened the reformist spirit.

“We refuse to regress to a pre-reform era. We reject any betrayal of the reformist ideals,” he said, referring to the New Order rule of President Suharto that ended with his fall from power in May 1998.

Prabowo, who is to take office in October, is a former Indonesian army special forces commander accused of having committed human rights abuses during Suharto’s dictatorship. 

Ganjar’s lawyers also urged the court to nullify the election results and disqualify Prabowo and Gibran.

Ganjar Pranowo (right) talks with his lawyer, Todung Mulya Lubis, during the first day of a Constitutional Court hearing on his challenge of the Feb. 14 Indonesian presidential election, in Jakarta, March 27, 2024. [Achmad Ibrahim/AP]

Ganjar lawyer Todung Mulya Lubis said he was optimistic that the court would closely look at the election process involving everything from its early stages to the vote itself rather than only focusing on the tally.

“The esteemed judges at the Constitutional Court carry the responsibility as ‘guardians of the Constitution’ to ensure the integrity of general elections,” Todung said.

“It’s evident that the registration and selection of candidate pair number two violates legal and ethical standards, is flawed in procedure, and should be revoked.”

Prabowo: No ‘concrete proof’

Yusril Ihza Mahendra, the lead lawyer representing Prabowo and Gibran, criticized the challenges for lacking substantial evidence.

“We believe these lawsuits are filled with stories, assumptions, and theories, rather than concrete proof,” Yusril said after the hearing, noting his team would not be challenged in counter claims made in court.

The court must resolve disputes within 14 working days after the lawsuit is officially filed. Anies and Muhaimin filed their challenge on March 21, while Ganjar and his running mate, Mohammad Mahfud MD, submitted theirs two days later.

Fadli Ramadhanil, program manager at the Association for Elections and Democracy, said the requests to disqualify Prabowo and Gibran could be a longshot.

“It’s going to be tough because the nomination process has already concluded,” Fadli told BenarNews.

Fadli said Anies’ and Ganjar’s legal teams should instead focus on demonstrating how Gibran’s candidacy impacted the election. This includes examining the involvement of Jokowi, ministers, village officials or social assistance programs that could have favored Gibran’s team.

“If they can pinpoint where and how this influence affected voters, it could significantly sway the decisions of the Constitutional Court judges,” he said.

Juhaidy Rizaldy, executive director of the Indonesian Law and Democracy Studies, noted that the Constitutional Court’s jurisdiction mainly covers result disputes only.

“The election process falls under the authority of Bawaslu or PTUN (State Administrative Court),” Juhaidy told BenarNews. “Therefore, the outcome will likely resemble the general election results disputes from previous elections.”

Ahmad Khoirul Umam, a political observer from Paramadina University, expressed skepticism about the court ruling against Prabowo’s team.

“The odds are slim, as they need to prove widespread, structured, and systematic fraud across 50% of Indonesia’s provinces. That’s a challenging task,” he told BenarNews.


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