Huge security operation as Indonesia court hears election rigging claims

Prabowo Subianto. Photo: @Prabowo / Instagram
Prabowo Subianto. Photo: @Prabowo / Instagram

Tens of thousands of security personnel were on the streets of Jakarta Friday as a court heard a defeated presidential challenger’s claim that Indonesia’s 2019 election was rigged — allegations that spawned deadly rioting last month.

Ex-general Prabowo Subianto lodged an appeal seeking to overturn his loss to incumbent leader Joko Widodo on April 17 over claims it was the result of massive electoral fraud and vote-counting irregularities in the world’s third-biggest democracy.

Indonesia’s election commission has said Widodo won 55.5 percent of votes against Subianto’s 44.5 percent, but Subianto has insisted that he had won the poll.

Election officials and analysts have discounted Subianto’s rampant cheating claims. He lost a similar court battle in 2014 when Widodo defeated him.

On Friday, Indonesia’s constitutional court began hearing evidence.

Subianto’s legal team alleged Widodo mobilized the power of the state to win the vote and broke campaign finance rules in what it called a “systematic, structured and massive” electoral fraud.

Another hearing is scheduled for next week.

Subianto supporters held small protests outside the downtown courtroom Friday, some holding placards criticizing the official result.

But there were few signs of mass unrest as some 32,000 police and military were deployed to watch for “any potential for disruption that could interfere with the proceedings”, said National police spokesman Dedi Prasetyo.

Last month, peaceful protests against the official result erupted into two nights of street battles between police and rioters in Jakarta, leaving eight people dead and hundreds injured in the capital’s worst violence in years.

Indonesian police have been under the spotlight after online videos surfaced that appeared to show officers beating some protesters.

There are also questions about how the demonstrators — including a 15-year-old high school student — died.

Police have insisted they did not shoot live rounds, but instead used rubber bullets, water cannons and tear gas to push back the crowds. Some of the dead were reported to have had gunshot wounds.

Meanwhile, several Subianto allies have recently been arrested, including former army general Kivlan Zen over his alleged links to the Jakarta riots.

Police have also aired video from several arrested suspects who claimed that Zen masterminded a failed plot to kill four senior government officials, including its chief security minister and the president’s top intelligence adviser.

A total of six people — arrested before they could carry out the killings — planned to murder the officials and an election pollster in a bid to plunge the country into chaos, police have said.

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