After 16 years of peaceful democracy, the dispute over who won Indonesia’s presidential election is turning into a serious test for both the country and outgoing President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, whose legacy will depend on how he handles the clash. Both Joko Widodo, the reformist Jakarta governor, and Prabowo Subianto, a self-styled military strongman, have claimed victory in the July 9 election, although most polling agencies and independent political analysts suggest Mr Widodo has won. The official vote count will not be completed until July 22, but both sides have already accused each other of trying to rig the process. If neither side accepts the outcome of the official count, it will be left to the national election commission (KPU), the Constitutional Court and President Yudhoyono to find a solution.
“Without question, the vote-count will be the major test for Indonesia’s democracy and, in particular, President Yudhoyono’s presidency,” says Tom Lembong, managing partner of Quvat, an Indonesia-focused private equity fund manager. “People only remember the beginning and the end.”
However, the president, the KPU and Constitutional Court all have their weaknesses in mediating the outcome of an election that has divided the nation, with media outlets, religious groups and senior politicians all backing one of the two candidates.
Trust in the Constitutional Court, which must rule on any disputes related to the official count within one month, is low after its last chief justice was convicted of corruption for selling verdicts in local election disputes.