JAKARTA (Reuters) - Indonesia’s highest court on Thursday unanimously upheld last month’s presidential election result, paving the way for Joko Widodo to take over as leader of the world’s third largest democracy.
The Constitutional Court, as expected, rejected a last-ditch attempt by losing presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto to overturn the election result that he believed was tainted by widespread cheating. The verdict cannot be appealed.
“The court rejects ... all applications from the applicant by all nine judges,” said Constitutional Court Chief Hamdan Zoelva at the conclusion of the verdict, which took about four and a half hours to read.
With the legal hurdles out of the way, president-elect Widodo will be able to speed up his preparations ahead of taking office on Oct. 20. He is expected to soon resign as Jakarta governor to focus on the transition.
“The next step is to get things ready. We will meet with the current president to get to know the problems,” Widodo told reporters after the verdict.
The administration of outgoing President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono had delayed meeting with Widodo’s transition team about pressing economic issues, such as ballooning fuel subsidy costs and a widening current account deficit, until after the verdict.
“The most pressing and urgent that (Widodo) will want to deal with is making room in the budget. He’s going to start moving fast in talks about a fuel subsidy cut,” said Eric Sugandi, economist at Standard Chartered in Jakarta.
A senior member of Widodo’s transition team told Reuters they would hold more advanced talks with the outgoing government about the possibility of a fuel subsidy cut before October.
Indonesian stocks closed at a 15-month high, up 0.31 percent at 5,206.14 and near a record high. The rupiah also strengthened against the dollar.
Prabowo had alleged “massive” fraud in the election and deployed a team of nearly 100 lawyers to bring a lawsuit against the Elections Commission, which was responsible for conducting the election across the vast archipelago.
Thousands of Prabowo supporters gathered near the court and police fired teargas and water cannons to disperse some of them as they tried to break through security barriers shortly after the court began its session.
Witnesses said protesters rammed four trucks into the barriers, sparking the police response. A few people were injured and four were arrested. The crowds later dispersed.
About 50,000 police and military personnel were on standby around the capital city in case of violence, authorities said. Some businesses and schools closed early as a precaution.
A spokesman for Prabowo urged his supporters to refrain from violence and said he respected the court’s ruling.
“We intend to be a healthy, positive balancing force to the government of (Widodo), not a destructive force like many think we will be,” Tantowi Yahya told reporters after the verdict.
Prabowo was not immediately available for comment after the ruling because he was visiting supporters who were injured in the protests earlier, Yahya said.
The Elections Commission, which has been commended by international observers for its transparency, declared last month Widodo the winner by nearly 8.5 million votes, or more than 53 percent of the vote.
The case was widely seen as a face-saving gesture and has been a common course of action in previous elections. The court has never overturned the result of a presidential election.
After two weeks of testimony from 25 witnesses for each side, the court found Prabowo’s team lacking substantial evidence to prove allegations of fraud.
Prabowo’s coalition, which currently controls 60 percent of parliament, is expected to crumble after the court decision as parties like Golkar, the country’s second biggest, will jump ship to join the Widodo government.
Additional reporting by Kanupriya Kapoor, Fergus Jensen and Eveline Danubrata; Writing by Randy Fabi; Editing by Jeremy Laurence and Raissa Kasolowsky