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Analysis: Losing presidential candidates go for the jugular. But for what?

Jakarta Post - April 2, 2024

Tenggara Strategics, Jakarta – Both losing presidential candidates, Anies Baswedan and Ganjar Pranowo, are demanding nothing less than a revote in their appeal to the Constitutional Court, claiming that the Feb. 14 election should be invalidated and the results annulled because of problems with the nomination of the running mate of the winning candidate.

Such a demand is unprecedented and unlikely to be met by the same court, and the same nine justices, which, just six months ago bent the electoral law to allow Gibran Rakabuming Raka, the 36-year-old son of President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo, to run as the vice presidential candidate to Prabowo Subianto, despite not meeting the minimum age of 40 under the then prevailing law.

The court is currently hearing appeals from Anies and Ganjar, and also from dozens of political parties and individual candidates that ran in the legislative elections, and has an April 22 deadline to announce all its decisions, which will be final and binding.

The General Elections Commission (KPU) on March 20 declared Prabowo, the current defense minister, and Gibran, the mayor of Surakarta in Central Java, winner of the presidential race with 59 percent of the vote, ruling out a run-off. Former Jakarta governor Anies came second with 25 percent and Ganjar, formerly the Central Java governor, third with 16 percent.

Their separate appeals to the Constitutional Court are the last legal recourse for Anies and Ganjar to contest the results. The political avenue, through the House of Representatives using its right of inquiry to investigate claims of fraud in the elections, is losing momentum with no political parties, not even those that backed the tickets of Anies and Ganjar, willing to take the lead.

In their appeals to the court, both Anies and Ganjar are calling for a new election to be held without Gibran, claiming that his nomination was problematic. They point out that members of both the court and KPU have already been found to have been in breach of ethics when they allowed Gibran to run. Despite this finding, their decision remained, and members of both institutions were allowed to keep their jobs and manage and supervise the 2024 elections.

In October, one week before the presidential nomination closed, the court carved out an exception to the minimum-age rule in response to a petition from a law student in Surakarta. The court ruled anyone who had served as a regional head could run in the presidential election, which meant that Gibran could run. A week later, the KPU accepted the Prabowo-Gibran ticket on deadline, although it had not received clearance from the House of Representatives, the only institution that could change the law. The House only changed the law the following week.

Ganjar also asked the court to look into allegations of nepotism, which is a crime under a 1999 law.

What's more

The chief justice of the court in October was Anwar Usman, who is married to Jokowi's younger sister, and therefore uncle to Gibran. After he was found to be in breach of ethics for bending the law to accommodate his nephew, he was removed from the chief position, but allowed to continue serving in the court. He and five other justices were only given verbal reprimands.

Even worse was the track record of KPU chair Hasyim Asy'ari, who has received five reprimands for his conduct, including three "last" warnings from the ethics council, since he took charge in 2022.

Anies and Gibran have supported their demand for a revote with evidence of what they call "massive, structured and systematic" violations of the elections by the winning candidates, from the use of money to buy votes and the suppression of supporters during the election campaign to fraud in the vote-counting process.

None of these claims, even if some of them are found to be true, would be sufficient to make a dent in the result, given the huge gap between the votes of the winner, against the other two candidates.

Anies and Ganjar may find themselves fighting a lone battle as the political parties that had backed their presidential tickets and helped their campaigns must now be thinking of their own political futures.

All of them have been invited by Prabowo to join his government for when he takes over in October. They must weigh up between joining the coalition, with all its payoffs such as access to power and money, or becoming an opposition force for the next five years. Their interests are starting to diverge from those of the candidates they supported, now that both have clearly lost and stand little chance of winning the battle in the Constitutional Court.

Even knowing that the chance of a revote is next to zero, Anies and Ganjar can still raise public doubts about the final results of the election, whose very integrity has been undermined by the ethical scandals at the KPU and the Constitutional Court.

This may haunt Prabowo and Gibran when they take charge of the country in October. But, as in other political scandals that have happened in this country, this will soon be forgotten.

What we've heard

A source within Anies Baswedan's legal team said that they had strengthened their legal advisory team with a combination of senior lawyers and young lawyers, including former employees of the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK). One of the senior lawyers is former KPK leader Bambang Widjajanto.

This source explained that the lawsuit over the election results was targeted at disqualifying Prabowo-Gibran as election participants and asking for a revote in the presidential election. This source added that efforts to thwart Prabowo-Gibran had been made from the start. However, he said that election organizers continued to move forward even though there were ethical violations in Gibran's registration process. "We only have legal standing if we participate in the election," said this source.

According to this source, some of the evidence has been read out in public and court, namely the partiality of election organizers, the deployment of state agency officials and the delivery of social assistance ahead of the voting. This source said that apart from the big target of disqualifying Prabowo-Gibran, they also wanted to show the public that the pork barrel political pattern, namely assisting voters through state instruments in elections, should not be allowed. "Don't let this become a practice that continues from election to election," said this source.

From Ganjar Pranowo's perspective, a member of his campaign team said that the lawsuit filed by candidate number three with the Constitutional Court was divided into three parts: registration, voting, and vote counting and recapitulation. This source explained that Prabowo-Gibran should have had problems registering with the General Elections Commission (KPU) because it still adhered to the old KPU regulations that stipulated the minimum age limit for candidates at 40 years old.

During the period leading up to the election and before the voting process, there was a deployment of officials, as well as the distribution of social assistance. "In the final phase, there were irregularities in the technological system during recapitulation," said this source.

[This content is provided by Tenggara Strategics in collaboration with The Jakarta Post to serve the latest comprehensive and reliable analysis on Indonesia's political and business landscape.]

Source: https://www.thejakartapost.com/opinion/2024/04/02/analysis-losing-presidential-candidates-go-for-the-jugular-but-for-what.htm