Prabowo loses first legal battle

Prabowo loses first legal battle
On the front line: A child wearing military attire participates in a demonstration in support of Prabowo Subianto and Hatta Rajasa in front of the Constitutional Court in Jakarta on Friday. Parents often bring their children to participate in demonstrations, which are unpredictable and frequently turn violent.

JAKARTA - Supporters of the losing presidential ticket Prabowo Subianto-Hatta Rajasa threatened to besiege the Constitutional Court on Monday to force the General Elections Commision (KPU) chief Husni Kamil Malik to face "tens of thousands of Prabowo's supporters".

Meanwhile, inside the court, Prabowo suffered his first defeat in his legal efforts to annul the results of the July presidential race, as the court rejected his camp's demand to punish the KPU for opening previously sealed ballot boxes without an order from the court.

"On Monday, we will besiege him [Husni]. We will deploy masses, even up to tens of thousands of supporters," Muhammad Taufik, the head of the Jakarta chapter of Prabowo's Gerindra Party, told Prabowo supporters outside the court.

"To make Husni Kamil Manik face us, the supporters and volunteers of Prabowo-Hatta," said Taufik, who was fired as the Jakarta General Elections Commission chief in 2006 after committing graft while in office.

Prabowo, his supporters and defence team often issue bombastic statements.

Prabowo had demanded the court declare the KPU's decision to open the ballot boxes as unlawful.

"They opened the ballot boxes to get the evidence without a court order, so that evidence cannot be used," said Didi Supriyanto, one of the Prabowo team's lawyers.

However, the court decided during the hearing that the KPU was allowed to open the ballot boxes to obtain evidence as long as the opening was observed by witnesses from both presidential tickets and election supervisors.

"They also had to ask for the police to guard [the opening of the ballot boxes]," Chief Justice Hamdan said.

As for the ballot boxes being opened before the decision was made, the court would decide on whether that violated the law or not in its final verdict on the presidential election dispute, Hamdan added.

During Friday's session, the court justices were alternately angered and amused by Prabowo's 25 witnesses. Prabowo's lawyers had expected the witnesses to be able to support Prabowo's claims about massive vote rigging during the July 9 presidential race.

Chief Justice Hamdan Zoelva was angered by one witness, Rahmatullah Al Amin, who confidently told the court that massive cheating occured in Surabaya. To support his allegation however he was only able to provide a copy of a newspaper, which quoted Surabaya Mayor Tri Rismaharini as expressing her joy because the Joko "Jokowi" Widodo-Jusuf Kalla pair was leading in the city.

Rahmatullah wept when Hamdan threatened to eject him from the court. "It is enough," said Hamdan.

Some of the witnesses appeared to be cornered by the justices for failing to give adequate arguments.

"Were you there at the polling station?" Justice Ahmad Fadlil Sumadi asked while questioning Purwanto, a witness at the local recapitulation at Sidoarjo regency in East Java, who had told the bench about manipulation at a polling station there. "How could you tell if you weren't there?"

"It was from the data of our team," Purwanto replied.

In the second court session, the KPU rejected the arguments in the petition made by the losing presidential ticket against the election results, describing them as "vague and obscure".

Ali Nurdin, one of lawyers representing the KPU, told the court during the hearing that Prabowo's team of lawyers failed to provide strong arguments to support their claims of "structural, massive and systematic" violations during the election process.

"'Structural, massive and systematic' means it was by design, done collectively and systematically by the election organizers. However, the petitioners have not elaborated on who was involved in the allegations and what kind of violations they were," Ali said. "Those claims have no legal basis and are not based on facts."

Separately, the Election Organisation Ethics Council (DKPP) held the first hearing into reports of alleged ethics-code violations committed by officials of the KPU and the Elections Supervisory Agency (Bawaslu), at which Prabowo's camp also brought up the ballot-box issue.

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