Indonesia election: Prabowo formally declared president-elect after court rejects legal challenges | Indonesia

Indonesia’s electoral commission has formally declared Prabowo Subianto president-elect in a ceremony, after the country’s highest court rejected challenges to his win by rival candidates.

Prabowo, 72, a former general dogged by allegations of human rights abuses, won a landslide victory in February’s elections, but his two opponents claimed that the vote had been undermined by state interference and unfair rule changes.

“The race has finished … the tough contest, with sometimes heated debates, is over,” Prabowo said during Wednesday’s ceremony, days after the legal challenges were rejected. “And now our people demand that political leaders must work together and collaborate for the people’s welfare and to eliminate poverty and corruption in Indonesia,” he said.

Prabowo won 58.6% of the vote in February’s election, but is a controversial figure. A former son-in-law of Suharto and a special commander under his 32-year regime, he has been accused of involvement in past rights abuses, including enforced disappearances of student activists and torture during the Suharto era. Prabowo was discharged from the military over the allegations and banned from entering the US for two decades.

Prabowo admitted in a 2014 interview with Al Jazeera that he had been involved in kidnappings, but said he was under orders and that his actions were legal.

Over recent years, he has sought to soften his public image, rebranding himself as a cuddly grandpa-like figure, and his campaign was boosted by his partnership with vice-presidential candidate, Gibran Rakabuming Raka, son of the popular outgoing president Joko Widodo, who is known as Jokowi.

Jokowi has been accused of interfering in the election in order to protect his legacy, which he denies.

Prabowo’s rivals – former Jakarta governor Anies Baswedan and former Central Java governor Ganjar Pranowo – both filed cases challenging Prabowo’s win.

Separately, they alleged that state interference – such as the distribution of social aid handouts in key battleground areas – had unfairly benefited the campaign of Prabowo.

They also complained that it was not fair that Jokowi’s son Gibran, 37, had been allowed to run as a vice-presidential candidate. His candidacy was possible only after a court, headed by Jokowi’s brother-in-law, created a controversial exception allowing candidates under the required age of 40 to seek the presidency or vice-presidency provided they have previously held elected regional office – a criteria Gibran met.

The constitutional court rejected their arguments on Monday. Both Anies and Ganjar said they will respect its decision. Prabowo will take office in October.

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