Court Seals Indonesia Leader's Victory

JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) -- Indonesia's top court on Monday rejected appeals lodged by two losing presidential candidates who are demanding a revote, alleging widespread irregularities and fraud at the February polls.

The 5-to-3 majority decision by the eight-judge panel of the Constitutional Court rejected the arguments, saying the legal teams of the losing candidates had failed to prove allegations that Prabowo Subianto's victory was the result of widespread fraud.

The Court "rejects the petitioner's appeal entirely," Constitutional Court Chief Justice Suhartoyo said Monday, after a panel of eight judges took a marathon six hours to publicly read its reasoning in turn on both separate appeals. The verdict cannot be appealed.

The General Elections Commission, known as KPU, had certified a landslide victory for president-elect Subianto, but his rivals, former Jakarta Gov. Anies Baswedan and former Central Java Gov. Ganjar Pranowo alleged that the victory had depended on large-scale fraud and widespread state interference.

They also alleged nepotism, challenging the candidacy of outgoing President Joko Widodo's eldest son, Gibran Rakabuming Raka, as Subianto's running mate.

Baswedan and Pranowo argued that Raka, 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, Raka was granted a controversial exception to that requirement by the Constitutional Court, which was then led by Anwar Usman, Widodo's brother-in-law. Usman was later forced to resign as chief justice for failing to recuse himself.

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

Subianto, the current defense minister, won the election with 58.6% of the votes, or more than 96 million ballots --- more than twice the number received by each of the two runners-up, according to the KPU.

The losing candidates accused Widodo of widespread abuse of power, saying he used officials at every level, ranging from cabinet members to village heads, and state policies such as social aid programs, to provide support for Subianto and Raka. Indonesian presidents are expected to remain neutral in elections to succeed them.

Baswedan and Pranowo's legal challenges complained that hefty social aid from the government was disbursed in the middle of the campaign --- far more than the amounts spent during the COVID-19 pandemic --- and Widodo distributed funds in person in a number of provinces.

But the top court dismissed the charges, saying it was not convinced that the president had intervened to change the requirements for candidates in favor of his son and that he did not commit nepotism when he approved and supported his son's candidacy for vice president.

"A position obtained through general elections cannot be qualified as a form of nepotism," judge Arief Hidayat said.

The court found that there was no proof that Widodo and his administration bent laws and norms to support Subianto. The decision was widely expected after four Indonesian Cabinet members testified in the court in April 5, that no rules were violated in the distribution of government aid.

However, in a dissenting opinion, judge Saldi Isra said it was impossible to deny that social assistance was disbursed in the middle of the campaign for electoral purposes is impossible.

"I have a moral obligation to warn in order to anticipate and prevent a repetition of similar situations in the future," Isra said.

Hundreds of protesters who had gathered near the court melted away as the broadcast of proceedings on a TV screen outside indicated their candidate's case was unsuccessful.

Subianto, who was linked to human rights abuses during the authoritarian rule of Suharto, previously made four bids for the presidency and twice unsuccessfully challenged his losses to Widodo. His refusal to accept the results of the 2019 presidential election led to violence that left nine people dead in Jakarta.

Widodo, the first Indonesian president from outside the Jakarta elite who is widely popular, will end his second and final term in office in October.