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Indonesia's constitutional court ready to take on election result challenge

By Fransiska Nangoy and Randy Fabi

JAKARTA (Reuters) - Indonesia's top court is prepared to hear a case challenging the result of this month's presidential election, well aware that its reputation is on the line after its top judge was jailed for corruption, his successor said.

The losing presidential candidate, Prabowo Subianto, has alleged mass cheating in the closely fought July 9 election and has said he will challenge the result in the Constitutional Court. A member of his team said the complaint would be lodged later on Friday.

The Prabowo team has not made public evidence to show that the cheating was on a large enough scale to overturn the result and some analysts say the case is more a face-saving effort and poses no real risk to the winner, Joko "Jokowi" Widodo.

"We realize that scrutiny of the Constitutional Court is high and that after Akil's case there are doubts about us," the head of the Constitutional Court, Hamdan Zoelva, told Reuters in an interview late on Thursday.

He was referring to his predecessor Akil Mochtar who was sentenced to life in prison last month for accepting bribes related to judgments on other election disputes.

The court will work professionally and decide all cases based on the evidence, Zoelva said.

He said he would not be surprised if Prabowo did file a complaint with his court, adding: "It is normal in Indonesia". The losing candidates did so in both previous presidential elections in 2004 and 2009 but the rulings had no impact on the final result.

"I believe the court ruling will be respected, whatever the result is," Zoelva said.

Prabowo has until the end of Friday to file a complaint with the court. If he does, the court will start hearing the case on Aug. 6 and must issue a verdict by Aug. 21,

Only if it is proven there was fraud that changed the election outcome, would the court order a revote at the disputed polling stations, Zoelva said.

Mahendradatta, the head of Prabowo's legal team, said that he has proof that there were 21 million disputed votes. Jokowi won the election by nearly 8.5 million votes.

The full nine-judge bench of the court will hear the case once the suit is filed.

(Additional reporting by Simon Webb; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan)

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