Sunday 21 January 2018

Court may decide new president

A police officer walks past a message taped on the road by supporters of presidential candidate Joko Widodo (AP)
A police officer walks past a message taped on the road by supporters of presidential candidate Joko Widodo (AP)

A day after Indonesia's presidential elections failed to produce a clear winner, Jakarta's police chief promised to prevent violence by cracking down on anyone celebrating prematurely.

With both candidates continuing to claim victory, the next leader of the world's third-largest democracy could be decided in court.

Wednesday's third direct presidential vote went smoothly, but fears of unrest surfaced after Jakarta Governor Joko Widodo and ex-army general Prabowo Subianto both declared a win after the quick count results were released.

The apparent deadlock has raised fears of political instability in the world's most populous Muslim nation and South-east Asia's biggest economy.

It could not only hit the economic development but also stall the nation's young democracy, which has just begun to flourish after decades of authoritarian rule.

Mr Widodo, known as Jokowi, came out ahead with 52% of the vote, according to the three most credible unofficial quick counts.

Mr Subianto pointed to lesser-known surveys showing he came out on top, but later said he would consider the election commission's announcement in two weeks as the "only formal result of the election".

The election commission, which began counting the votes, will produce the official results by July 22.

But if either candidate refutes the outcome due to evidence of fraud or other voting irregularities, the case will go to the Constitutional Court.

The judges have two weeks to make a ruling after receiving complaints.

Confidence in the Constitutional Court has also recently been shaken, though some are already predicting that is where Indonesia's next president will be decided.

Last month, its former chief justice was jailed for life for accepting bribes while ruling on a regional election dispute.

The election has energised the country of 240 million. Turnout was estimated around 75% in a race that was polarised by two very different figures.

Mr Widodo, 53, of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle, is the first candidate in a direct presidential election with no ties to former late dictator Suharto, who ruled for 30 years before being overthrown in 1998.

He is a former furniture exporter from humble beginnings who has built a reputation of being an efficient leader, getting elected to run the capital in 2012. He is seen as a man of the people and ran a more grassroots campaign.

Mr Subianto, of the Great Indonesia Movement Party, comes from a wealthy, well-known family and is accused of widespread human rights abuses, including ordering pro-democracy activists kidnapped before Suharto's fall.

He surged forward in the polls just weeks before the election after picking up endorsements from most of the country's major political parties and running a more well-oiled campaign.

Press Association

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