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Indonesia: 6 Dead, Protests Swell as Country Plunges into Post-Election Unrest

Indonesia: 6 Dead, Protests Swell as Country Plunges into Post-Election Unrest
folder_openAsia-Pacific... access_timeone year ago
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By Staff, Agencies

Demonstrations over the outcome of last month's presidential election gripped the heart of Indonesia's capital on Wednesday [May 22] after an overnight face-off between police and protesters in which, according to Jakarta's governor, six people were killed.

The protests followed an announcement before dawn on Tuesday by the election commission confirming that President Joko Widodo had beaten his challenger, former general Prabowo Subianto, in the Apr 17 poll.

Crowds swelled in central Jakarta on Wednesday morning and 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, apparently to protect themselves from tear gas.

The majority of the 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.

"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.

Hundreds of students also protested peacefully in the city of Medan, in the north of the island of Sumatra, demanding an investigation into alleged election cheating, TVOne reported.

The General Election Commission [KPU] on Tuesday confirmed unofficial counts by private pollsters that gave Widodo a 55.5 per cent share of votes against 44.5 per cent 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".

Prabowo's legal director has said his campaign plans to contest the result in the Constitutional Court. Prabowo also launched a legal challenge after he was defeated in the 2014 election by Widodo, which was rejected.

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

Analysts have said Widodo's double-digit margin of victory means the opposition does not have a strong case to claim the election was rigged, but Islamist supporters of Prabowo could cause considerable disruption.