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Posted at: May 23, 2019, 7:58 AM; last updated: May 23, 2019, 7:58 AM (IST)

6 die, protests swell as Indonesia plunges into post-election unrest

President warns of action against rioters | Rival calls on all sides to avoid violence
6 die, protests swell as Indonesia plunges into post-election unrest
CAPITAL BURNS: People protest in the streets of Tanah Abang area in Jakarta on Wednesday. Reuters

JAKARTA, May 22

Demonstrations over the outcome of last month’s presidential election gripped the heart of Indonesia’s capital on Wednesday after an overnight face-off between police and protesters in which Jakarta’s governor said six persons were killed.

The riots followed an announcement on Tuesday by the General Election Commission (KPU) confirming that President Joko Widodo had beaten his challenger, former general Prabowo Subianto, in the April 17 poll.

Crowds swelled in central Jakarta on Wednesday and the police said they expected more protesters to join them before nightfall. Some of those arriving carried wooden poles and some had smeared toothpaste around their eyes, a practice commonly carried out to eliminate the effects of tear gas.

Protests that began calmly in the sprawling textile market neighbourhood of Tanah Abang on Tuesday turned violent after nightfall, with police firing tear gas to disperse the crowd. Jakarta Governor Anies Baswedan told TVOne that by the morning six persons had been killed and 200 wounded.

Television footage showed smoke billowing from behind dozens of protesters in the streets of Tanah Abang on Wednesday, with some throwing firecrackers and tearing down public fences.

President Widodo said security was now under control and warned of tough action against those instigating riots.”I will not tolerate anyone disrupting the security...or unity of the country, or those who disrupt the democratic process,” he told a briefing at the palace.

Police have arrested up to 100 persons on suspicion of provoking riots. Widodo’s challenger, Prabowo, who has refused to concede defeat, called for peaceful protests and crowd control. “I urge all sides, the people who are expressing their aspirations, the police, the military and all sides to refrain from physical abuse,” he told a briefing.

The majority of protesters appeared to have come from outside Jakarta and police found envelopes containing money on some of the people they searched, national police spokesman Muhamad Iqbal told a news conference.

The KPU on Tuesday confirmed unofficial counts by private pollsters that gave Widodo a 55.5% share of votes against 44.5% for Prabowo.

Widodo won more than 85 million votes of 154 million cast in the world’s third-largest democracy, but retired general Prabowo has alleged “massive cheating and irregularities”.

A Prabowo campaign official said they plan to contest the result in the Constitutional Court on Thursday. Prabowo also launched a legal challenge after he was defeated in the 2014 election by Widodo, which was unsuccessful.

The election supervisory agency dismissed claims of systematic cheating, citing a lack of evidence. Independent observers have said the poll was free and fair.

Subianto ran a fear-based campaign, emphasising what he sees as Indonesia’s weakness and the risk of exploitation by foreign powers or disintegration. He aligned himself with hard-line Muslim groups and won massive majorities in conservative provinces such as Aceh, which follows Shariah law, but was defeated by Widodo in the president’s populous East Java and Central Java strongholds. — Agencies

Subianto refuses to accept official results of April 17 election

  • Former General Prabowo Subianto, a volatile ultra-nationalist politician, has refused to accept the official results of the April 17 election and instead declared himself the winner
  • The Election Commission on Tuesday said President Joko Widodo, the first Indonesian president from outside the Jakarta elite, had won 55.5 per cent of the vote, securing the moderate technocrat a second term
  • Subianto, an elite figure from a family connected to former dictator Suharto, also lost to Widodo in 2014. He has made four unsuccessful bids for presidency since Suharto was ousted in 1998
  • The communications and information technology minister, said features of social media including Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp will be restricted on a temporary basis to prevent the spread of hoaxes and inflammatory content

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