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.


Symbolic swearing-in for Sri Lanka’s new strongman

Updated 45 min 37 sec ago

Symbolic swearing-in for Sri Lanka’s new strongman

  • Rajapaksa’s landslide win split the nation of 21.6 million people on religious and ethnic lines as never before
  • Rajapaksa took his oath of office at an ancient temple at Anuradhapura, in the northern part of the island

ANURADHAPURA, Sri Lanka: Sri Lanka’s new president Gotabaya Rajapaksa was sworn in Monday at a Buddhist temple revered by his core Sinhalese nationalist supporters, following an election victory that triggered fear and concern among the island’s Tamil and Muslim minority communities.

Rajapaksa’s landslide win split the nation of 21.6 million people on religious and ethnic lines as never before, seven months after deadly Islamist attacks rocked the country.

The former defense secretary is lauded by his majority Sinhala-Buddhist community for leading a no-holds-barred military campaign that crushed Tamil rebels and ended a 37-year separatist war in 2009 when his brother was president.

Rajapaksa took his oath of office at an ancient temple at Anuradhapura, in the northern part of the island.

He did so facing the temple’s stupa, which is the tallest in Sri Lanka and dates back more than two millennia.

The imposing structure is said to have been built by a Sinhalese king who is venerated by Sri Lanka’s Buddhists for vanquishing an invading south Indian Tamil ruler.
Around 40,000 Tamil civilians were allegedly killed at the end of the civil war in 2009.

Saturday’s election saw the country’s Tamils, who account for about 15 percent of the population, vote overwhelmingly against Rajapaksa.

During his brother’s 2005-15 presidency Gotabaya had unfettered control over security forces, while “death squads” that abducted dozens of dissidents, opponents, journalists and others also allegedly reported to him.

Many people were never found again after being bundled into feared white vans, while some were killed and dumped by roadsides. Rajapaksa has denied any involvement.

He has resisted international calls to investigate the alleged war crimes.

At his only press conference during a three-month election campaign, Rajapaksa reiterated that he will not allow Sri Lankan troops to be tried by any war-crime tribunal, foreign or local.

He had also pledged to exonerate and free from prosecution the dozens of military personnel accused of abductions, extortion and killings during his brother’s decade in power.

In his brief acceptance speech at the announcement of the final election results on Sunday, Rajapaksa pledged to work for all Sri Lankans.

“I am the president of not only those who voted for me but also those who voted against me... irrespective of which race or religion they belong to,” Rajapaksa said.

“I am deeply committed to serve all the people of Sri Lanka.”

The island’s minority Tamils have been campaigning for greater autonomy in areas where they are concentrated.

Tamil youth took up arms in 1972 demanding a separate state and their violent guerilla campaign at its height saw them control a third of the country.

After being in opposition for nearly five years, the Rajapaksa family’s comeback came after the Sinhalese-Buddhist community and the powerful Buddhist clergy rallied behind them.

Rajapaksa formally announced his intention to run for the presidency just days after Islamist attacks on April 21 that killed 269 people, promising to protect the nation.

The Easter Sunday suicide bombings on three upscale hotels and three churches was carried out by a homegrown outfit from among Sri Lanka’s Muslim minority, who make up 10 percent of the population.

It shocked the nation, and the world, just as Sri Lankan tourism was booming and as the nation prepared to celebrate a decade since the end of the Tamil separatist war.

Rajapakasa insisted that extremists would not have carried out any attacks if he had been in power. He blamed the government of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe for weakening the intelligence apparatus he had built.