Six dead after election riots in Indonesia’s capital

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JAKARTA, May 22, 2019 (BSS/AFP) – At least six people were killed as
Indonesia’s capital erupted in violence on Wednesday when police clashed with
protesters opposed to the re-election of President Joko Widodo.

Dozens were arrested and parts of Jakarta were littered with debris and
burned-out cars, as the violence triggered security advisories from the US
and Australian embassies.

Authorities also restricted access to some social media in a bid to stop
rumours and fake news from spreading online.

National police chief Tito Karnavian said six people had died, but denied
authorities had fired live rounds on the crowd, and called for calm.

“Some had gunshot wounds, some had blunt force wounds but we still need to
clarify this,” he told reporters.

The violence came after Indonesia’s election commission on Tuesday
confirmed Widodo had beaten retired military general Prabowo Subianto for the
presidency in a poll held on April 17.

Subianto has said he would challenge the results in court — as he did,
unsuccessfully, against Widodo in 2014 — but also warned his claims of
widespread cheating could spark street protests.

That was borne out early Wednesday as protesters set market stalls and
cars on fire while hurling fireworks and rocks at security personnel clad in
riot gear and holding shields, an AFP reporter on the scene said.

The early morning clashes started after several thousand Subianto
supporters rallied peacefully near the election supervisory agency’s office
in the heart of the capital on Tuesday.

– ‘Exercise caution’ –

Later, roads were blocked off in parts of the sprawling metropolis — with
some shopping malls, businesses and schools also closed as small groups of
protesters engaged in skirmishes with police.

“I open myself to anyone to work together to build and develop this
nation, but I won’t tolerate anyone who tries to disrupt public security, the
democratic process or the unity of our… country,” Widodo said at a press
briefing, flanked by his chief security ministry and the head of the
military.

Subianto repeated calls for supporters to avoid violence.

“We support people’s constitutional rights (to protest) as long as they
are civilised, peaceful and non-violent,” he told reporters.

By Wednesday afternoon, a crowd of several thousand demonstrators flowed
into the city’s business and commercial heart for a rally.

“Avoid areas where demonstrations are occurring & exercise caution in the
vicinity of any large gathering,” the US embassy said on Twitter.

More than 30,000 troops had been deployed in anticipation of unrest, and
the elections commission office was barricaded with razor wire and protected
by scores of security personnel.

In Medan city on Sumatra island, hundreds took part in a peaceful rally
over election cheating claims Wednesday.

But the violence in Jakarta was a planned act by paid “provocateurs”,
authorities claimed, citing envelopes with money found on some of nearly 70
demonstrators who had been arrested.

– ‘Massive fraud’ –

Election officials and analysts have discounted Subianto’s claims, but
many supporters appeared convinced of rampant cheating in the world’s third-
biggest democracy.

“I need to support Indonesia’s sovereignty — there has been massive fraud
in this election,” said Puji Astuti, a 42-year-old Subianto supporter at a
rally in central Jakarta Wednesday.

The protests in support of Subianto have sparked a backlash online from
opponents with the hashtag #Tangkapprabowo (#ArrestPrabowo) trending widely
on social media.

Tensions have also spiked since police said last week that they had
arrested dozens of Islamic State-linked terror suspects who had planned to
cause chaos by bombing protests.

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