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Indonesia election

Jakarta on edge as court hears claims against Jokowi election win

Police say former officers in Prabowo's circle may have fomented May riots

Supporters of Indonesia's opposition leader Prabowo Subianto rally outside the Constitutional Court in Jakarta on Friday. (Photo by Bobby Nugroho)

JAKARTA -- Indonesia's capital was on edge on Friday as the nation's constitutional court held its first hearing on the opposition's legal challenge against the election win of President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo.

Opposition leader Prabowo Subianto's camp alleges that "structured, systemic and massive" fraud helped Widodo win 55.5% of the vote in the April 17 election. The same three words were used when Subianto challenged the 2014 poll result after the pair first locked horns at the ballot box.

Dozens of Subianto supporters rallied peacefully outside the court on Friday, but the crowd was smaller than during demonstrations that turned violent on May 21-22 after the election commission's announcement of the official tally. Nine were killed in clashes between protesters and police, with scores more injured. More than 200 people were arrested.

Jakarta remains peaceful as of Friday afternoon, with no sign of protests escalating into riots, perhaps partially attributable to Subianto's call for his supporters to remain calm.

But police revelations of the alleged actors behind the May riots have incited concerns, with some ex-military officials in Subianto's circle among the suspected masterminds. The police have also said that a former commander of the army special unit Kopassus, which was once led by Subianto, may have been behind an assassination plot targeting four senior government officials.

But the military denies such claims. "We've questioned them [Kopassus members] one by one. No active Kopassus member was involved [in the riots and assassination plans]," Defense Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu told reporters earlier this week.

Singling out the opposition, Kuskridho Ambardi, a politics lecturer at Indonesia's Gadjah Mada University, said there had been conscious attempts to sow an old rivalry between the military and the police.

"Prabowo, who is an ex-military [general], has tried to persuade some within the military ranks to support him. Active officers could have commanded troops," said Ambardi. "Monitoring of military units is now done on daily basis to make sure they're not involved in the election [frictions]. Today they remain under control."

The opposition has denied any involvement. They also have attacked Widodo over a separate string of arrests by police of some opposition members over allegations of spreading disinformation -- something they say befits an "oppressive authoritarian" regime.

The National Commission on Human Rights is investigating the police's alleged use of violence in dealing with the riots, and some activists have criticized the government's temporary limitation of social media use around that time. The government is reportedly considering similar action if protests outside the court escalate.

Ambardi said some of the arrests and the temporary limitation of social media were justified, as hoaxes were clearly intended to provoke anger and violence.

Judges preside over the first hearing of the challenge to the result of April's presidential election at the Constitutional Court in Jakarta on Friday. The losing candidate former Gen. Prabowo Subianto claims there was massive electoral fraud and is asking the Constitutional Court to invalidate the election.   © AP

In contrast to 2014, Subianto's supporters are not focusing on alleged fraud during the voting and counting processes. They appear to be aware of the difficulties in presenting evidence to back their claims that the nearly 17-million-votes gap was down to fabrication.

Instead, the opposition's legal team has chosen to scrutinize every policy that Widodo rolled out during his first term as president, claiming it is proof of a structured attempt to win votes.

"The misuse of the state budget has been intended to influence voters to win the presidential election... [through] civil servants' salary rises, increase of villages' fund and the disbursement of social aid funds," according to the lawsuit read at court by Bambang Widjojanto, the head of the legal team.

He also accused Widodo of mobilizing state-owned enterprises, police and the military to support his reelection bid.

The opposition demanded that the court disqualify Widodo and his running mate Ma'ruf Amin over the alleged abuse of power, and annul the official result. They have also accused the commission and the election supervisory body of bias. Subianto has claimed victory several times, with his team citing internal exit poll results that gave the former army general a win with between 52% and 80% of the vote.

The court has until June 28 to issue its verdict on the dispute, which will be final and binding.

Nikkei staff writers Ismi Damayanti and Bobby Nugroho contributed to this story

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