Indonesian Court Rejects Petitions Seeking Rerun of Presidential Election

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Indonesian Court Rejects Petitions Seeking Rerun of Presidential Election

The Constitutional Court’s expected verdict has removed the final obstacle to Defense Minister Prabowo Subianto taking office in October.

Indonesian Court Rejects Petitions Seeking Rerun of Presidential Election

The entrance to the Constitutional Court in Jakarta, Indonesia.

Credit: Flickr/Francisco Anzola

Indonesia’s Constitutional Court yesterday rejected two appeals lodged by losing presidential candidates, upholding the landslide victory of Defense Minister Prabowo Subianto at February’s presidential election.

Anies Baswedan and Ganjar Pranowo had demanded a rerun of the February 14 election due to alleged widespread irregularities and fraud, but in a 5-to-3 majority decision, the court said that they furnished insufficient evidence to support their claim. The judgement cannot be appealed, and effectively brings to an end the legal challenges against the election result, paving the way for Prabowo to assume office in October.

“The plaintiff’s petition has no legal basis in its entirety,” Chief Justice Suhartoyo said in announcing the decision on the petition filed by Anies, Reuters reported.

Prabowo won 58.6 percent of the vote on February 14, according to the General Elections Commission, well ahead of Anies (25 percent) and Ganjar (17 percent). Shortly after election day, Anies and Ganjar alleged that Prabowo’s victory had been enabled by fraud and widespread state interference, including government handouts of rice, cash, and fertilizer.

“When we are talking about free and fair elections this also means that the state takes a neutral position toward any contestants and organizes the election in a neutral way,” Anies said at the time. A senior official from the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle, which put Ganjar forward as its candidate, said that party believed that the poll had been marred “by abuse of power, ranging from legal aspects to the use of state facilities.”

The two campaigns, along with much of Indonesian civil society, claimed also that nepotism had played a role, particularly in allowing the candidacy of Gibran Rakabuming Raka, President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s eldest son, to register as Prabowo’s running mate.

In October, the Constitutional Court waived the minimum age requirement of 40 for presidential and vice-presidential candidates, in the case of officials who had been elected at lower levels of government. This allowed the 36-year-old Gibran, who had served as the governor of the mayor of the city of Solo since 2020, to take part in the election. At the time, the chief justice of the court was Anwar Usman, Jokowi’s brother-in-law. The Court’s own ethics panel later ruled that Usman should have recused himself from the case, and he was forced to resign his post. Usman, who remains on the court, recused himself from yesterday’s case.

In its judgment, however, the court said it saw no evidence that Jokowi had intervened to bring about Gibran’s appointment as Prabowo’s vice-presidential candidate. “A position obtained through general elections cannot be qualified as a form of nepotism,” judge Arief Hidayat said, according to The Associated Press. The judges were also not convinced by the arguments presented by Anies’ legal team that Jokowi’s government had disbursed social assistance in a bid to influence the election outcome in favor of Prabowo.

However, in a dissenting opinion, judge Saldi Isra said it was clear that social assistance had been disbursed during the campaign for electoral purposes – something that is a routine occurrence in Indonesian elections, especially at the provincial and municipal level. “I have a moral obligation to warn in order to anticipate and prevent a repetition of similar situations in the future,” Isra said.

It was widely expected that the Constitutional Court would reject the appeals, and not just because it was at least in part being asked to rule on one of its own recent rulings. Indeed, there was a sense that the two losing candidates were going through the motions somewhat, given Prabowo’s significant margin of victory.

The margin of Prabowo’s victory was always a complicating factor for their legal challenges. “With near on 60 percent of the country voting for the winning ticket,” Erin Cook noted in her newsletter Dari Mulut ke Mulut, “where the fanatical support ends and the thumb on the scale begins is impossible to gauge.”

After yesterday’s ruling, both former candidates said they would respect the ruling. Anies called Prabowo a “patriot,” while Ganjar wished the “winner” luck as he prepared to take office in six months.