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Indonesia presidential runner-up alleges widespread fraud as he contests official election results

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JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — A runner-up in Indonesia’s presidential election filed a complaint with the Constitutional Court on Thursday, alleging widespread irregularities and fraud at the polls.

Former Jakarta Gov. Anies Baswedan, who received nearly 41 million votes, or 24.9%, told reporters that by contesting the official results he hoped to improve the election process in Indonesia, the world’s third-largest democracy.

His lawyer said they hoped for a revote.

“We want to emphasize that what we have experienced and witnessed — and what the media and public have seen — is that there were many problems in this election process, from its policy and regulations to its execution,” Baswedan said.

The election winner, Defense Minister Prabowo Subianto, received more than 96 million votes, or 58.6%, in the Feb. 14 polls, according to final results released by the Election Commission late Wednesday. Subianto was accused of human rights abuses under a past dictatorship and chose the son of the popular outgoing president as his running mate.

A third candidate, former Central Java Gov. Ganjar Pranowo, received 27 million votes, or 16.5%, the commission said. It posted results from polling stations on its website to allow for independent verification.

Baswedan’s lawyers and members of his campaign team were shown in television news reports on Thursday filing the challenge at the court, with a large number of documents they said showed evidence of fraud.

Ari Yusuf Amir, the head of Baswedan’s legal team, said the irregularities began with outgoing President Joko Widodo’s son, Gibran Rakabuming Raka, who was allowed to run for vice president with Subianto. The Constitutional Court made an exception to the minimum age requirement of 40 for candidates. Raka is 37.

“His candidacy had a tremendous impact,” Amir told a news conference after registering the challenge with the Constitutional Court.

Anwar Usman, who was the court’s chief justice when the exception was made, is Widodo’s brother in law. An ethics panel later forced Usman to resign for failing to recuse himself and for making last-minute changes to the candidacy requirements, but allowed him to remain on the court as long as he does not participate in election-related cases.

Baswedan’s lawyers also say the government helped Subianto and Raka by intimidating the heads of villages across the country and by disbursing government social aid during the election to persuade voters to cast ballots for them.

“If our argument is accepted by the court’s justices, we hope that a revote will be held without the problematic vice presidential candidate participating,” Amir said. “Let us fight honestly, fairly and freely.”

Constitutional Court spokesperson Fajar Laksono Suroso said Baswedan’s case would be heard by April 22 and that the verdict would come on May 7. The ruling cannot be appealed. It will be decided by eight justices instead of the full nine-member court because Usman is required to recuse himself.

Todung Mulya Lubis, a prominent lawyer who represents the other election contender, Pranowo, said his team would file their own complaints before the deadline for candidates to register for disputes at midnight on Saturday.

He told reporters on Thursday that his team would bring about 30 witnesses to testify before the court. Lubis previously said his team has had difficulty getting witnesses to agree to testify in court because some of them were intimidated by authorities.

He acknowledged that successfully challenging an election result with such a wide margin of victory would be difficult.

“We are not rejecting elections, but we want to improve and correct mistakes in the election process,” Lubis said.

Widodo has faced criticism for throwing his support behind Subianto. The outgoing president distanced himself from his own party and made a series of actions seen as efforts to boost Subianto’s campaign. Indonesian presidents are expected to remain neutral in elections to replace them.

Hefty social aid from the government was disbursed in the middle of the campaign — far more than the amounts spent during the COVID-19 pandemic. Widodo distributed funds in person in a number of provinces, in a move that drew particular scrutiny.

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