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Indonesia court rejects appeal against Jokowi's re-election

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Armed police officers stand guard outside the Constitutional Court in Jakarta, Indonesia. The court has unanimously upheld the re-election of President Joko Widodo, rejecting a petition by his challenger disputing the official result and ending months of political uncertainty in the world's third-largest democracy.

[JAKARTA] An Indonesian court has unanimously upheld the re-election of President Joko Widodo, rejecting a petition by his challenger disputing the official result and ending months of political uncertainty in the world's third-largest democracy.

The Constitutional Court in Jakarta on Thursday cited a lack of evidence to dismiss Prabowo Subianto's appeal against the General Elections Commission's declaring Jokowi, as Widodo is known, as the winner of the April 17 election.

The court's Chief Justice Anwar Usman declared the finding that Jokowi was the winner of the April 17 election was legal. Mr Subianto, who challenged Mr Jokowi in a bitterly contested election, had repeatedly claimed victory, alleging irregularities in the polls. The former general initiated the legal case, which was seeking the disqualification of Mr Jokowi and a fresh vote.

The election campaign was marred by identity politics, with the opposition targeting the president's religious credentials and his alleged proximity to China. Some of the most conservative regions - such as West Java, West Sumatra and Aceh - overwhelmingly voted for Mr Prabowo, who was backed by hardline Islamic groups and parties, data from the elections commission showed.

The court ruling should help heal the divide caused by the disputed outcome and allow Jokowi to focus on steps to shield Southeast Asia's largest economy from an escalating US-China trade war that's threatening to hurt growth and fuel a trade deficit. The president heads into the second term with an increased coalition majority in parliament will help him pass tough laws to open up Southeast Asia's largest economy and draw foreign investors.

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"The government can now focus on structural reforms, especially on efforts to invite FDI," said David Sumual, chief economist of PT Bank Central Asia in Jakarta. He added it was important that Mr Jokowi not delay forming his new Cabinet team, noting "the country may lose reform momentum unless Jokowi opts to soon reshuffle the cabinet" to "guard reform in his second term."

With a group backing Mr Prabowo, as Mr Subianto is commonly known, pledging to gather 100,000 people for a rally on Thursday, authorities deployed 47,000 security personnel around the court, the president's palace, parliament and the election commission's offices. Nine people were killed and hundreds injured in two days of violent clashes amid protests against the official announcement of Mr Jokowi's win last month.

Though the police have barred groups from holding any rallies around the court, PA 212, which organised mass demonstration to seek jailing of former Jakarta Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama in 2016, had mobilized hundreds of its supporters in the capital from early Thursday. Coordinating Minister for Politics, Legal, and Security Affairs Wiranto said police will act against those defying the ban on gathering.

With Mr Jokowi looking to reboot his cabinet, Mr Prabowo's Gerindra party has signaled it's open to joining.

"Both sides have issued many statements calling for reconciliation and the court proceedings itself was a form of reconciliation," said Djayadi Hanan, executive director of polling group Saiful Mujani Research & Consulting. "Jokowi has also stated that he would be a president for all Indonesians and that's reconciliation as well."

Mr Jokowi, who won 55.5 per cent votes, is scheduled to be sworn in for a second five-year term in October.

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