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6 protesters killed as Indonesia election rally turns violent

Bloomberg5/22/2019 04:18 PM GMT+08  • 4 min read
6 protesters killed as Indonesia election rally turns violent
SINGAPORE (May 22): At least six people were killed and hundreds more injured in clashes between police and supporters of Indonesian presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto in the worst political violence to hit Jakarta in two decades.
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SINGAPORE (May 22): At least six people were killed and hundreds more injured in clashes between police and supporters of Indonesian presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto in the worst political violence to hit Jakarta in two decades.

Jakarta Governor Anies Baswedan appealed for public order and urged police to exercise restraint and avoid conflict with the protesters in the capital city. About 200 injured protesters have been admitted to various hospitals in Jakarta, Baswedan told reporters. The violence is the worst since to grip the city since the downfall of Suharto in 1998.

Protesters set fire to a police building in central Jakarta early on Wednesday after police fired tear gas to disperse the crowd outside the nation’s election supervisory board late on Tuesday, National Police spokesman Mohammad Iqbal said. Groups of people also clashed with the police in several other parts of the capital, setting vehicles on fire, hurling stones and petrol bombs, he said.

The military is ready to deploy additional troops if needed, spokesperson Sisriadi told reporters.

Supporters of Prabowo, as Subianto is commonly known, have threatened to rally outside the nation’s General Elections Commission and the poll watchdog on Wednesday to protest the official result confirming incumbent Joko Widodo’s as the winner of April 17 election.

Investigation Demand

Prabowo’s campaign team called for calm and urged police to exercise restraint. Dradjad Wibowo, a spokesman for the team, said it stood by its demand for an independent investigation into the claims of vote-rigging.

“We cannot dismiss the accusation of vote rigging just like that," Wibowo said. “The claims have to be investigated independently by a group agreed by both sides that has the power to get all the details. It’s very important. Without that it will be very difficult to get reconciliation.”

Widodo, known as Jokowi, won the presidential race with 55.5% of the national vote, the commission said on Tuesday, an outcome rejected by Prabowo, who has threatened a court challenge. The former general has repeatedly claimed victory, citing his own team’s survey of votes, and alleged the commission had made no effort to address complaints of election irregularities.

Challenging Outcome

“There’s a lot of people who absolutely and sincerely support Prabowo and his coalition of parties and are very disappointed with the result,” said Greg Barton, a professor of global Islamic politics at Deakin University in Australia. “Given the momentum behind the desire to protest, given Prabowo’s commitment and given his resources, there was always going to be a bit of venting.”

The political unrest may undermine Jokowi’s efforts to bolster growth and tackle a high current account deficit that’s weighed on the Southeast Asian nation’s currency, stocks and bonds. While the benchmark stock exchange fluctuated on Wednesday, the rupiah weakened for a fourth day, Aberdeen Standard Investments expects investors to focus on the country’s growth prospects.

“I expect these clashes and any concerns that come with it to go away pretty soon. This will not derail the growth trajectory of Indonesia,” said Bharat Joshi, a Jakarta-based fund manager at Aberdeen. “Investors are placing more weight on the certainty of the election outcome over the clashes today as the victory margin for Jokowi is too wide for Prabowo to challenge.”

A candidate can challenge the result in the nation’s Constitutional Court within three days of the declaration of the official result, according to election rules. Prabowo, who lost to Jokowi in the 2014 elections, challenged the outcome then only to be rejected by the court.

Trading in Indonesia’s stocks, bonds and currency remained normal though several schools remained shut and some companies allowed employees to work from home.

Police, which have been placed on the highest security alert nationwide until May 25, have urged people not to participate in rallies because militants linked to the Islamic State were plotting to use the gatherings to launch attacks.

The deaths will "be a trigger for bigger protests from Prabowo supporters,” said Andreas Harsono, Indonesia researcher at Human Rights Watch.

Jokowi has called for peace and unity, urging citizens to respect the will of the people and the democratic process. The president said he respected his opponent’s decision to challenge the verdict and pledged to “work hard to realize social justice for all Indonesians.”

Jokowi, 57, is expected to be sworn in for his second five-year tenure on Oct 20.

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