Prabowo declared president-elect

Victory parade: Supporters of Prabowo and Gibran cheering near the General Election Commission building in Jakarta. — AP

THE electoral commission formally declared Prabowo Subianto president-elect in a ceremony yesterday, after the country’s highest court rejected challenges to his landslide victory lodged by two losing presidential candidates.

Prabowo, who is currently defence minister, won the election with 58.6% of the votes, or more than 96 million ballots, more than twice the number received by either of the other two candidates. But his rivals alleged that his victory had depended on large-scale fraud and widespread state interference.

Authorities blocked streets leading to the General Election Commission compound, where more than 4,200 policemen and soldiers were deployed. Wearing matching long-sleeved white shirts, Prabowo and vice-president-elect Gibran Rakabuming Raka waved to their supporters as they arrived at the building.

“The race has finished ... the tough contest, with sometimes heated debates, is over,” Prabowo said during the ceremony, attended by the country’s political elite, including rival candidate Anies Baswedan and his running mate Muhaimin Iskandar.

“And now our people demand that political leaders must work together and collaborate for the people’s welfare and to eliminate poverty and corruption in Indonesia,” Prabowo said.

Prabowo will take office in October, succeeding the popular Joko Widodo, the country’s first president from outside the Jakarta elite.

The General Election Commission certified the election results on March 20, but the formal declaration ceremony was put on hold following legal challenges from rival candidates, former Jakarta governor Anies and former Central Java governor Ganjar Pranowo, who sought to annul the results and demand a revote.

They also alleged nepotism, challenging the candidacy of outgoing President Widodo’s eldest son, Gibran, as Prabowo’s running mate.

Anies and Ganjar argued that Gibran, 37, should have been disqualified because the minimum age for candidates is 40, and they asked the court to bar him from a revote. Before the election, Gibran was granted a controversial exception to that requirement by the Constitutional Court, which was then led by Anwar Usman, Widodo’s brother-in-law. Anwar was later forced to resign as chief justice for failing to recuse himself.

In a 5-to-3 decision, the Constitutional Court rejected the arguments on Monday, saying the legal teams of the losing candidates had failed to prove allegations that Prabowo’s victory was the result of widespread fraud. That verdict cannot be appealed.

The case was decided by eight justices instead of the full nine-member court because Anwar, who is still on the court as an associate justice, was required to recuse himself.

Anies and Muhaimin conceded and congratulated Prabowo and Gibran shortly after the Constitutional Court’s decision was read out on Monday, saying they are committed to maintaining the principle of peaceful transfer of power and that “we choose to be part of continuing to build the quality of Indonesian democracy”.

Ganjar and his running mate, Mohammad Mahfud, also congratulated Prabowo.

“We accept and fully respect the decision of the Constitutional Court,” Ganjar said, “Like or dislike, we have to accept it because it’s final, legal and binding.”

A longtime commander in Indonesia’s Kopassus special forces, Prabowo was discharged from the military in 1998 after Kopassus soldiers tortured activists who opposed dictator Suharto, his father-in-law.

He never faced trial and vehemently denies any involvement, although several of his men were tried and convicted.

He went into self-exile in Jordan before returning and founding the Gerindra Party in early 2008.

In the past, he worked closely with hardline Islamists to undermine his opponents and previously made three bids for the presidency, twice unsuccessfully challenging his own losses to Widodo.

Prabowo’s refusal to accept the results of the 2019 presidential election led to violence that left nine people dead in Jakarta, but he joined the cabinet after Widodo offered him the defence ministry in a bid for unity. — AP

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