Wed, 21 Aug 2019

Calm Follows 2nd Night of Indonesian Election Protests

Voice of America
23 May 2019, 22:06 GMT+10

JAKARTA, INDONESIA - Calm returned to the streets of the Indonesian capital Thursday after a second night of clashes between security forces and protesters angry about the outcome of last month's election, which handed President Joko Widodo a second term.

Downtown areas of the capital became a battlefield with tear gas, rubber bullets, rocks and firecrackers overnight.

Protesters tore up slabs of pavement, destroyed street signs and set fire to food stalls and a security post.

The unrest followed an early Tuesday announcement by the General Election Commission confirming that Widodo had beaten his challenger, former general Prabowo Subianto, in the April 17 poll.

Deaths rise to 8

The violence began Tuesday night when six people were killed. Two more were killed on Wednesday night, officials said.

Jakarta Governor Anies Baswedan said the dead included three teenagers, and 737 people were injured in the rioting, which was concentrated in the central neighborhood of Tanah Abang. State news agency Antara reported that three hospitals had treated more than 350 people for injuries.

But the ranks of the protesters thinned over Wednesday night, and police spokesman Dedi Praseyto said the last ones had dispersed by 7 a.m. (0000 GMT).

Roads that were quiet Wednesday as office workers stayed away from the city center, were abuzz with traffic again Thursday. City workers in orange overalls swept up the debris.

Widodo won more than 85 million of 154 million votes cast, but Prabowo alleged "massive cheating and irregularities" and refused to concede defeat.

The election agency has said there was no evidence of systematic cheating and independent observers have said the poll was free and fair.

In other parts of Indonesia, a mob burned a police station on Madura island, northeast of the main island of Java, while two police posts were set ablaze in Pontianak on Borneo island, media reported.

'Bent on chaos'

Indonesian financial markets were firmer Thursday with the rupiah up 0.5% and the main stock index up 1.6%.

Taye Shim, director of capital markets at Mirae Asset Securities Indonesia, said he did not see the demonstrations as a serious threat to Indonesia's stability.

'While upset supporters might demonstrate their disagreement with the official election results, we don't think it would be a serious threat to Indonesia's democracy,' he told Reuters.

Police said the number of arrests linked to the riots had risen to 300.

National police spokesman Muhamad Iqbal said officers had found envelopes with money on some of the people they searched, suggesting instigators were behind the trouble.

'This is not a spontaneous incident, this is something by design. There are indications that the mobs are paid and bent on causing chaos,' he said on Wednesday.

Prabowo, in a video posted to his Twitter account late Wednesday, urged his supporters to disperse peacefully.

'I beg you to return to your homes to rest, avoid any actions that would break the law,' he said.

Prabowo's political party, Gerindra, complained that the authorities were trying to pin the blame for the riots on him.

Challenging the vote

Andre Rosiade, a spokesman for Gerindra, said a lawsuit would be filed at the Constitutional Court on Friday to contest the election result, which gave Widodo a 55.5% share of votes against 44.5% for his challenger.

Prabowo lost the previous presidential election, in 2014, to Widodo by a slimmer margin and objected to the result then, too.

He also lodged a complaint with the Constitutional Court but the court rejected it.

Analysts say Widodo's double-digit margin of victory this time means the opposition does not have a strong case to claim rigging but he may be able to count on agitation over the result by a strong contingent of Islamist supporters.

The government boosted the number of police and soldiers on duty to 58,000 across Jakarta and temporarily blocked some social media functions to prevent fake news that could fan unrest.

Police displayed at a news conference suspects in orange jumpsuits as well as petrol bombs, arrows, sickles and cash in envelopes.

Police chief Tito Karnavian showed reporters a sniper rifle with silencer and two pistols he said were seized from people days before the rioting.

'There is an effort to provoke, to create martyrs, blame the authorities and invoke public anger,' he said.

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