Prabowo Subianto’s election as Indonesia’s next president is official. Why is it being challenged?

JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — Indonesia’s electoral commission announced on Wednesday that Defense Minister Prabowo Subianto, a former general linked to past human rights abuses, was elected president. The results immediately drew allegations of fraud from Subianto’s political rivals.

Former Jakarta Gov. Anies Baswedan and former Central Java Gov. Ganjar Pranowo have said they plan to challenge the official results at the country’s highest court.

The Feb. 14 election was Indonesia’s fifth since shaking off a dictatorship in 1998. The archipelago of more than 270 million people is Southeast Asia’s most populous country and its biggest economy.

Here’s what you need to know about the results and why they are being challenged.


Subianto, a 72-year-old former special forces general with ties to former dictators and popular current President Joko Widodo, emerged as the apparent winner on election day, as unofficial tallies by polling agencies showed he had an overwhelming lead.

That victory was confirmed by the General Election Commission’s official tally, a laborious process that took more than 30 days. Subianto won 58.6% of votes while Baswedan received 24.9% and Pranowo received 16.5%.


Both of the losing candidates said irregularities occurred before, during and after the vote.

Widodo faces 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, which has drawn scrutiny.

The challengers also allege that the Constitutional Court acted improperly in allowing Subianto to choose Widodo’s son, Gibran Rakabuming Raka, as his running mate, even though he does not meet the constitutional age requirement.

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


Any election challenges face long odds, said Todung Mulya Lubis, a lawyer who represents Pranowo. Subianto’s commanding lead reflects pre-election polls that showed him as the front runner.

“We will argue that when we talk about election disputes, we are not only talking about the outcome of the election, but we are also talking about the process of the election, prior to the election,” Lubis told journalists on March 14.


In Indonesia, election disputes can be registered with the Constitutional Court during the three days that follow the announcement of official results. The court is expected to rule by May 7.

Any cases would be decided by eight justices instead of the full nine-member court because Usman is required to recuse himself.

The new president will be inaugurated on Oct. 20 and will have to appoint a Cabinet within two weeks.


Subianto was a longtime rival of Widodo who ran against him for the presidency twice and refused to accept his defeat on both occasions, in 2014 and 2019.

But Widodo appointed Subianto defense chief after his reelection, paving the way for an alliance despite their rival political parties. During the campaign, Subianto ran as the popular outgoing president’s heir, vowing to continue signature policies like the construction of a multibillion-dollar new capital city and limits on exporting raw materials intended to boost domestic industry.

Subianto, who comes from one of the country’s wealthiest families, is a sharp contrast to Widodo, who came from a humble background and as president often mingled with working-class crowds.

Subianto was a special forces commander until he was expelled by the army in 1998 over accusations that he played a role in the kidnappings and torture of activists and other abuses. He never faced trial and vehemently denies any involvement, although several of his men were tried and convicted.

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