Security ramped up as Indonesia court rules on disputed election

A woman argues with plain-clothed police during a protest near the constitutional court in Jakarta on June 26, 2019, a day before the court reads their decision on defeated presidential challenger's claim that Indonesia's 2019 election was rigged, allegations that spawned deadly rioting in May. (AFP / BAY ISMOYO)
Updated 27 June 2019

Security ramped up as Indonesia court rules on disputed election

  • President Joko Widodo was declared by the election commission winner of April’s presidential race with a comfortable double-digit lead
  • But challenger Prabowo Subianto has refused to concede defeat and has sought to overturn the result, citing systematic fraud and abuse of power

JAKARTA: Indonesia’s Constitutional Court will rule on Thursday on an opposition challenge to the official presidential election result after allegations the vote won by President Joko Widodo in the world’s third-biggest democracy was rigged.
Widodo won April’s presidential race with a comfortable double-digit lead, the General Election Commission’s (KPU) official count showed last month.
However, his challenger, retired general Prabowo Subianto, has refused to concede defeat and his legal team has called on the court to overturn the result or disqualify Widodo’s ticket, citing systematic fraud and abuse of power.
The election supervisory agency (Bawaslu) has said there was no evidence of systematic cheating and independent observers have said the poll was free and fair.
At least 47,000 security personnel have been deployed in Jakarta in case of protests by Prabowo supporters and police have blocked roads in the vicinity of the court, which has been hearing the case for two weeks.
The court’s verdict, delivered by a panel of nine judges, is final and no appeal can be lodged.
Some of the worst civil unrest in years broke out in the heart of Jakarta last month after the official election results were announced. Prabowo supporters clashed with security forces and called for Widodo to step down.
At least nine people were killed and 900 injured in two nights of the violence, with police firing tear gas and rubber bullets and protesters charging them with rocks, sticks, and firecrackers.
Amnesty International Indonesia said this week police used excessive force and accused officers of torturing several people while trying to contain the riots.
The rights group has called for an independent probe into the deaths, which police say they are conducting with the national commission for human rights.

’Massive tampering’
Authorities have blamed last month’s violence on several groups, saying many of the rioters were paid, and also accused a retired special forces general with links to Prabowo of masterminding a plot to assassinate top state officials during the unrest.
Prabowo and his running mate Sandiaga Uno have urged their supporters to stay off the streets and “watch the verdict at home on television instead,” said Andre Rosiade, a campaign spokesman.
Both sides have said they will accept the court’s ruling.
Prabowo’s legal team sued the KPU and presented in court witnesses and evidence they said showed there was “election tampering in a structural, systematic, and massive manner.”
They claim Prabowo won 52% of the vote — against 44.5% according to official results — and have asked for the court to nullify the official results as they stand, hold a re-vote, or declare Prabowo and Uno the winners.
The legal team has also called on the court to disqualify Widodo’s ticket on the grounds that his running mate, Ma’ruf Amin, failed to resign from an advisory position on the board of a state-controlled bank as required by election law.
The team has also sought to highlight issues with Widodo’s campaign financing, while claiming he used state apparatus as a campaign tool. It has also called on the court to dismiss all KPU commissioners.
Many experts say it will be very difficult to prove the opposition’s claims and two separate legal teams for the KPU and Widodo have said the allegations are baseless.
The vast majority, around 70%, of Indonesians believe the election was honest and fair, an opinion poll by Saiful Mujani Research and Consulting showed last week.


Panama hospitals on verge of collapse as virus cases surge

Updated 6 min 12 sec ago

Panama hospitals on verge of collapse as virus cases surge

  • With a population of four million, Panama has gone from 200 cases a day to 1,100 over the last few weeks
  • Authorities estimate that of every 100 people infected, 20 end up in hospital

PANAMA CITY: Hospitals in Panama are on the brink of collapse as coronavirus cases spike in the Central American country worst hit by the pandemic, where doctors are already exhausted.
With a population of four million, Panama has gone from 200 cases a day to 1,100 over the last few weeks.
“Our daily number of infected patients has been increasing in a sustained way to the point of passing 1,000 cases,” David Villalobos, head of the intensive care unit at the Arnulfo Arias Madrid Hospital in Panama City, told AFP.
“There are no hospitals that could sustain such a number,” he said.
The sharp increase has forced authorities to adapt existing hospitals and look for new spaces, like convention centers, to boost a health system with a range of problems including long waiting lists.
“The fear of the collapse of the public system in our country is evident if the number of cases remains the same,” Domingo Moreno, coordinator of a coalition of health care workers’ unions, told AFP.
“In the next two weeks we probably won’t have anywhere to put beds.”
With 42,000 cases and 839 deaths, Panama has the worst official tally of coronavirus infections in the region.

According to official figures, close to 20,000 people are in isolation at home or in hotels. Another 1,000 are receiving hospital treatment, 159 of whom are in intensive care.
Authorities estimate that of every 100 people infected, 20 end up in hospital — meaning that at the current rate, 200 people a day are being admitted to hospital, and 50 to intensive care.
“It’s exhausting, sometimes we have to go back at night for admissions. But here we are,” Giselle Sanchez, a doctor caring for the most serious COVID-19 patients, told AFP.
Doctors and nurses around the country have protested in recent weeks demanding medical supplies and protective equipment.
“There’s fear of infection, of being in a situation that puts your life at risk. This is a war of attrition,” said Moreno.
President Laurentino Cortizo recently pledged to carry out 4,000 tests a day to find and isolate those infected.
But some people, like Silda Idalia Rios, are afraid of taking the test because of rumors circulating about the pandemic.
The virus “has come to attack us,” she told AFP, conceding that “you need to accept that you have to take a test to see if it’s positive.”
Health Minister Francisco Sucre said he was aware of a significant group of people continuing to go out despite knowing they had contracted COVID-19, making it harder to get the outbreak under control.
“We are directly dependent on what the people can do or prevent in the street. The people really need to understand that we’re going to collapse,” said Malena Urrutia, from the COVID-19 coordination team at the Arnulfo Arias Madrid Hospital.
Cortizo said: “As president I would like to tell you that it’s over, but it isn’t. We still don’t have a vaccine. The battle goes on.”