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Indonesian court begins hearing election dispute

Wednesday - 8/6/2014, 8:30am  ET

NINIEK KARMINI
Associated Press

JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) -- Indonesia's Constitutional Court on Wednesday began hearing a challenge of the result of the country's July 9 presidential election, in which Jakarta Gov. Joko Widodo was declared victor.

Losing candidate Prabowo Subianto filed a complaint with the court last month, alleging that "structural, systematic and massive fraud" by the Election Commission had destroyed his chances of leading Southeast Asia's largest economy.

On July 22, the commission declared Widodo, widely known as Jokowi, the winner with 53 percent of the votes, more than 8 million more than Subianto, a former general under longtime dictator Suharto.

Subianto's representatives walked out before the final tally was completed. The former general did not concede and called on supporters to reject the results, saying they were flawed and violated the principles of democracy.

Lawyer Makdir Ismail told the court Wednesday that millions of votes cast across the archipelago were invalid due to irregularities at more than 55,000 polling stations in eight provinces, including Jakarta, East Java, Papua Barat and all 14 districts in Papua. He alleged that poll officials inflated Widodo's results, voters used improper registration cards and recounts were performed inconsistently.

Subianto's initial court documents showed his camp's own count putting him narrowly ahead with more than 67 million votes, or 50.25 percent, and Widodo with nearly 66.5 million, or 49.74 percent. It questioned the validity of 2.7 million votes.

"We feel very, very hurt by irregular, dishonest and unjust practices that have been shown by the election organizers," Subianto told the court.

Several hundred Subianto supporters gathered outside the court building in central Jakarta, shouting, "Long live Prabowo Subianto! The real president!"

More than 1,500 policemen were deployed to protect the court and its nine judges.

Later, Subianto's supporters rode motorbikes to the Parliament building, waving colorful flags and banners lambasting the election results.

In Surabaya, the country's second-largest city, police used water cannons to disperse more than 500 Subianto supporters, some of whom tried to force their way into the Election Commission's local office. One was hospitalized with head wounds, said Surabaya Police Chief Col. Setija Junianta.

The July 9 race was Indonesia's third direct presidential election after emerging from three decades of dictatorship under Suharto, who was once Subianto's father-in-law.

Indonesia, the world's third-biggest democracy with more than 240 million people, was energized by the campaign. Turnout was around 71 percent in a poll that was polarized by two very different figures.

Subianto, who comes from a wealthy, well-connected family, harkened back to Indonesia's past with nationalistic calls for a stronger country. Widodo rose from poverty to become a furniture exporter before going into local politics and gaining popularity as a "man of the people."

The election, and the current court proceedings, have played out with fury in the social-media crazed nation. There has been a frenzy of "unfriending" on Facebook of users who supported opposing camps.

There were 200 million interactions -- likes, shares, posts and comments -- about the election leading up to the event in a country with 69 million regular users, said Andy Stone of Facebook's policy communications.

That compares to India, which has 100 million regular Facebook users, where 227 million interactions were seen prior to recent elections there.

The Indonesia court is to hold its next hearing on Friday. Its ruling, which cannot be appealed, is expected Aug. 21.

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Associated Press writers Margie Mason and Ali Kotarumalos contributed to this report.


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