The Constitutional Court has the power to adjudicate on election dispute. (Antara Photo/Hafidz Mubarak A.)

What's Behind Prabowo's Excessive Demands at the Election Dispute Trial?


JUNE 24, 2019

Jakarta. The list of demands drawn up by presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto and his running mate Sandiaga Uno and delivered to the Constitutional Court last week might have mistakenly suggested that the court can act beyond its authority as the sole interpreter of the constitution. 

Under Indonesia's Election Law, the Constitutional Court has the power to adjudicate on a particular election dispute, i.e. to decide if the votes that went to each candidate were legitimate after deliberating on evidence and witness testimonies presented at a trial.  

But Bambang Widjojanto, who heads Prabowo's legal team, last week delivered more than just a demand to revise the vote count in April's election.

According to them, Prabowo had won 52 percent of the vote instead of the 45 percent announced by the General Elections Commission (KPU). 

Prabowo's legal team also demanded that the court disqualify President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo and his running mate Ma’ruf Amin from the election for their alleged involvement in "systematic and massive" electoral frauds. 

It also demanded that the court declare Prabowo as the real election winner. This, according to the Election Law, is the prerogative of the KPU. 

If these demands cannot be granted, Prabowo has asked for a Constitutional Court-mandated repeat election, the dismissal of all current election commissioners (and the appointment of their replacements) and the creation of a new voters' registry.

Legal experts, however, have pointed out that these demands are more than the Constitutional Court can grant under Indonesian law. 

"[Prabowo] is setting up a trap under the false pretense of progressive law," Petrus Selestinus, a legal advocate, said.

"Those demands were made as if the Constitutional Court is a super body," he said. 

According to the Election Law, Petrus said, Prabowo's demands could be categorized into several types of election violation: administrative, criminal and ethical – all of which should be resolved by a different government body. 

The law stipulates that administrative violations are to be handled only by the Election Supervisory Board (Bawaslu), criminal election violations by the Integrated Law Enforcement Center (Gakkumdu), disputes over electoral process by the Bawaslu and the State Administrative Court (PTUN) and ethical violations by the Election Organizers (DKPP).

"Prabowo's demands could lead the Constitutional Court to fall into the trap of misusing its authority. This will violate the general principle of good governance," Petrus said.

Petrus suspects Prabowo may not be looking for a resolution to the presidential election dispute. Instead, his intention might be to test the limits of the 2011 Law on Constitutional Court and the 2017 Law on General Election, with an aim to tempt the court to overreach itself. "But he might have overreached himself," Petrus said. 

Feri Amsari, the director of the Constitutional Study Center at Andalas University's Faculty of Law, said Prabowo's long list of demands has actually made it harder for the Constitutional Court to grant any of them. 

"They've asked too much; their requests are not making any sense," Feri said. 

"They said the election was rigged 'massively and systematically.' Then why did they ask that some of Jokowi's votes should be given to them?" he said. 

Prabowo's demand for the court to dismiss all current KPU commissioners was also misplaced, according to Feri. The commissioners were selected by the president and approved by the House of Representatives. Only the president can dismiss the commissioners, and only if they have committed ethical, administrative or criminal offenses according to the law.