Six dead as post-election unrest hits Indonesia

Clashes began after incumbent Joko Widodo declared winner of presidential election

 Protesters clash with  police during  outside of the Election Supervisory Board (building in Jakarta on Wednesday. Photograph: Adi Weda/EPA

Protesters clash with police during outside of the Election Supervisory Board (building in Jakarta on Wednesday. Photograph: Adi Weda/EPA

 

Six people have died and about 200 have been injured in clashes in Jakarta following the official announcement that incumbent Joko Widodo had won the Indonesian presidential elections.

News of the deaths, announced by the city’s governor Anies Baswedan, came as Indonesia’s chief security minister Wiranto said the government was partially blocking access to social media to try to calm the situation.

“Certain features are to be deactivated to protect against the negative messages that continue to be disseminated to the community,” said Mr Wiranto, who goes by only one name.

Rudiantara, minister of communication and technology, said downloads of images and videos would be slowed down.

The clashes started as peaceful protests on Tuesday after the electoral commission confirmed Mr Widodo won last month’s election with an 11 percentage point advantage over Prabowo Subianto, a former army general, who said he would challenge the result in the constitutional court.

But the demonstrations turned violent overnight, with protesters burning cars and security officers trying to contain protests with tear gas. Tito Karnavia, national police chief, said that while protesters had been peaceful throughout the day on Tuesday, a new group arrived at 11pm and “attacked the police throwing rocks, Molotov and fire crackers” until the morning. His claims could not be independently verified.

The violent protests are a setback for south-east Asia’s largest economy. The region has looked to its fledgling democracy as an example of a successful political transition. The fourth most populous country in the world abandoned dictatorship just two decades ago with the fall of Suharto at the height of the Asian financial crisis of 1997-98.

Mr Widodo condemned the riots in an address on Wednesday, saying while he was open to working with anybody to “build this country”, he would not “tolerate anyone who tries to undermine the security and democracy processes, and undermine the unity of this country”.

The president said national troops and the police had “no other choice” but to act firmly. But he called on Indonesians to rebuild the nation’s “brotherhood” and “cohesion”.

Fatalities

The riots follow an election that analysts say was steeped in identity politics and religious rhetoric, with Mr Prabowo courting hardline Islamic groups and Mr Widodo – who is seen as more liberal – picking a conservative cleric as his running mate.

Muhammad Iqbal, national police spokesman, said in a press conference on Wednesday that police had yet to confirm the number of fatalities, adding that authorities suspected the culprits were paid “to create chaos”.

Officials emphasised the fact that security officers – 50,000 were deployed by the police and 12,000 were sent by national armed forces – were not equipped with live bullets and fire arms.

Moeldoko, Mr Widodo’s chief of staff known only by his first name, told reporters third parties hijacking the rallies wanted to spread terror, adding that the elections were already a closed chapter.

Since the vote on April 17th, Mr Prabowo has claimed there were electoral irregularities and that, according to his team’s own calculations, he had won the elections.

Mr Prabowo and his campaign team have said they would mobilise “people power” for street demonstrations. The former general has repeatedly called for his supporters to remain peaceful.

Those supporters include Islamist groups that have proven efficient at mobilising crowds in the past, most notably in 2016, when mass protests led to the jailing of Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, the Christian and ethnic Chinese former Jakarta governor.

Mr Prabowo’s campaign team declined to comment on the protests. – Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2019