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Indonesia Presidential Loser Challenges Vote - 2004-07-29


An Indonesian presidential candidate, who failed to make it into the second round of voting, has challenged the results in the country's constitutional court. The challenge could upset the relatively smooth running of Indonesia's complicated electoral process.

Presidential candidate General Wiranto lodged his challenge with the Constitutional Court three days after Indonesia's electoral commission announced he was out of the running for the second round of the presidential race.

Mr. Wiranto, a former head of the armed forces and candidate for Indonesia's largest political party, Golkar, said there were a number of questionable election results. He said his challenge through the legal system should strengthen the democratic process. This is the first time that Indonesians have had a chance to directly elect their president.

On Monday, the electoral commission, known as the KPU, announced that front-runner Suslio Bambang Yudhoyono, a one-time security minister, will stand against his former boss, President Megawati Sukarnoputri in the September run-off.

But Mr. Wiranto's running mate, Salahuddin Wahid, said he hoped that if the Constitutional Court ruled in their favor, they would be allowed to participate in the next round of voting. Mr. Wahid said his party had identified a problem with missing votes.

"We are still counting whether there is a difference between the total sum product of KPU and our calculation," he said. "Should the difference be significant, so the Constitutional Court should give us a chance to prove hard facts, and then maybe they give instruction to make recounting."

He also said he believes the country's electoral commission mishandled a dispute over double-punched ballots.

Mr. Wiranto and his running mate, Salahuddin Wahid, got just over 22 percent of the vote, 4.5 percent behind incumbent President Megawati Sukarnoputri.

Some members of Mr. Wiranto's party seem to have already accepted defeat, and are now looking for coalition partners among the camps of the winning candidates.

Mr. Wiranto's challenge does not come as a surprise, and while it adds some political uncertainty, few analysts expect it to change the political landscape.

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