Aug. 21 (Bloomberg) -- Indonesia’s constitutional court ruled against parts of defeated presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto’s challenge of the results, as police fired tear gas and used water cannons against crowds of his supporters.
The court’s initial rulings today found some election violations, yet struck down key parts of Prabowo’s argument against Jakarta Governor Joko Widodo’s victory in last month’s poll. The final decision was likely late today as judges broke for prayers and food during their presentation of a verdict that was more than 4,300 pages long.
“According to the court, the reasoning that has been submitted by the petitioner isn’t reasonable, according to the law,” Justice Muhammad Alim said, striking down Prabowo’s allegation that votes had been changed. The court found there were violations in two districts in Indonesia’s easternmost province of Papua, yet it said this didn’t affect the overall results in the region.
The ruling is likely to end a month of uncertainty after the General Elections Commission said 53-year-old Widodo, known as Jokowi, won by a margin of 8.4 million votes. Prabowo, 62, has been calling for a revote in some parts of the country. Ensuring a calm transfer of power is crucial for Indonesia as it seeks to assure investors the nation’s closest election in more than a decade won’t erode economic progress.
’End of the Road’
The Jakarta Composite Index rose 0.3 percent today to its highest close since May 22, 2013. The gauge reversed an intraday decline as the court read out the ruling. PT Bank Rakyat Indonesia gained 1.6 percent, providing the biggest boost for the index.
“It’s very difficult to see that the evidence supports the allegation of structured, massive and systematic fraud,” Keith Loveard, head of political risk at Jakarta-based security company Concord Consulting Inc., said ahead of the ruling. This “appears to be the end of the road” for Prabowo, he said.
Almost 30,000 police, some carrying tear gas canisters, were deployed across Jakarta to block roads, lay razor wire and guard against unrest. Hundreds of Prabowo supporters carrying red and white flags blocked a central roundabout in the morning and then headed toward the court area. Some schools in central Jakarta were closed for the day or finished early.
As the reading of the verdict began, some Prabowo supporters threw rocks at police and tried to break through their lines around the court house. Police responded by firing water cannons and volleys of tear gas in a central square. Crowds there thinned as the court proceedings ran into the evening.
The rupiah, up 4.1 percent this year against the dollar, the most among major Asian currencies tracked by Bloomberg, has changed little since the July 9 vote amid investor concerns over the challenge. Foreign money managers have put more than $4.8 billion into Indonesian shares since December, on optimism Jokowi will replicate nationally the success he had in Jakarta in cutting red tape and kick-starting infrastructure development.
“We have seen a major positive reaction in the market for any positive news about the new election and Jokowi,” said Gundy Cahyadi, an economist at DBS Group Holdings Ltd. in Singapore. “If there’s re-voting, the uncertainty will cause a small correction in the market.”
Risk of Violence
Prabowo, a special-forces commando during the rule of his former father-in-law, dictator Suharto, questioned procedures at about 59,000 polling stations in the world’s third-largest democracy and has sought revotes in as many as six provinces. If the court suit fails, he will concede and then “harass” the government with an active parliamentary opposition, his brother and economic adviser Hashim Djojohadikusumo said in an interview on July 25.
“There remain the fanatical supporters,” said Loveard. “The danger is that if they see themselves facing a dead end, they could lash out in violence,” he said. Outgoing President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, the police and army would crack down on any provocation, Loveard said.
Indonesia must guard its democratic process, Yudhoyono said in a speech last week, having previously warned the political situation might “boil” should the loser refuse to accept defeat. Failure to confirm the result at a court previously tainted by corruption allegations would be a setback for a young democracy emerging from decades of authoritarian rule by Suharto.
The judges will dismiss the case, and this will strengthen Jokowi’s hand as Prabowo’s coalition splinters, Marcus Mietzner, associate professor at Canberra’s Australian National University, said ahead of the verdict. Some of the ex-general’s allies are already seeking to switch sides to join the government.
“After the case is thrown out, more parties will approach Jokowi,” Mietzner, author of “Money, Power and Ideology: Political Parties in Post-Authoritarian Indonesia,” said in Jakarta.
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