JAKARTA (Reuters) - Indonesia's losing presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto launched a last-gasp attempt to overturn the official election result on Wednesday, telling the nation's highest court last month's vote was tainted by "massive" fraud.
The Constitutional Court is widely expected to rule against Prabowo and uphold the result of the election, won by Jakarta governor Joko Widodo in the closest presidential election in Indonesia's history. The court must deliver a verdict by Aug. 21, and that decision cannot be appealed.
The legal uncertainty over the election has delayed at least one major economic reform policy as the outgoing government awaits a "definitive" president before deciding on how to address ballooning fuel subsidy costs.
"Some of the (voting) practices that went on only happen in totalitarian countries like North Korea," Prabowo told the court's nine judges at the start of the hearing.
"Now we are faced with the rape of our democratic rights."
Hundreds of Prabowo's supporters protested outside the court as the hearing began, delaying traffic in central Jakarta. There were no reports of violence in Jakarta, with more than 20,000 police deployed around the Indonesian capital.
However, police used water cannon to disperse thousands of protesters in East Java's capital city of Surabaya, a Reuters witness said. Several arrests were made but there were no reports of injuries.
The case is 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.
The Elections Commission (KPU), which has been commended by international observers for its transparency, declared Widodo the winner by nearly 8.5 million votes, or more than 53 percent of the vote.
Prabowo's lawyers said they would provide evidence of "mistakes" at 52,000 polling stations and that the former general had actually won the election by around 1 million votes.
"The evidence and testimony will support the accusation of serious cheating that's been done by the KPU," said Eggi Sudjana, one of Prabowo's lawyers.
The case is seen as a major test for the Constitutional Court after the former chief justice was jailed for life in June for accepting bribes over local election disputes. Analysts say the court is keen to regain its reputation for independence.
President-elect Widodo, who in the aftermath of the election called on Indonesians to move past what was often a divisive race, announced this week a high-powered advisory team to handle his transition to office in October.
Widodo is set to inherit a number of challenges, including a slowing economy and a burgeoning fuel subsidy bill, which he has promised to tackle in his first 100 days in office.
The administration of outgoing President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono is holding preliminary talks with Widodo's team on the fuel subsidy issue but will not make a decision on how to proceed until after the court verdict.
(Additional reporting by Dennys Kapa in JAKARTA and Sigit Pamungkas in SURABAYA; Editing by Randy Fabi and Paul Tait)