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Protesters Killed as Indonesia Post-Election Rally Turns Violent

Karlis Salna, Tassia Sipahutar and Arys Aditya
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Protesters Killed as Indonesia Post-Election Rally Turns Violent

(Bloomberg) -- Protesters clashed with police in the Indonesian capital Wednesday evening in a second night of violence sparked by the release of an official vote count that declared President Joko Widodo the winner of last month’s election.

In the worst violence to grip the city since the downfall of the dictator Suharto in 1998, at least six people were killed and hundreds more injured as clashes between police and supporters of presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto continued.

Prabowo, as he is commonly known, has rejected the outcome and claimed victory himself. The former general will lodge a legal challenge against the results with the Constitutional Court by Friday, his spokesman Dahnil Anzar Simanjuntak said. Prabowo has repeatedly cited his own team’s survey of votes as proof of his victory, and alleged the commission had made no effort to address complaints of election irregularities.

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.

Protesters set fire to a police building in central Jakarta 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 other parts of the capital, setting vehicles on fire, hurling stones and petrol bombs, he said.

‘Under Control’

Widodo, known as Jokowi, said the situation was under control with the military and police committed to maintaining stability and security. While calling for peace and unity for a second day, the president said his government will not tolerate any efforts to disrupt the country’s security and democracy. Indonesia’s election commission on Tuesday announced Jokowi had secured 55.5% of the national vote.

The military is ready to deploy additional troops if needed, spokesperson Sisriadi told reporters. The government also ordered curbs on social media usage with certain features of Facebook, Instagram and messaging systems being disabled to prevent downloading of pictures and videos, according to Communications Minister Rudiantara.

Thousands of supporters of Prabowo rallied outside the nation’s election watchdog for a second day on Wednesday to protest the official result confirming Jokowi as the winner of the April 17 election.

Prabowo said he will back all protests as long as they are constitutional, peaceful and non-violent, and urged the police to exercise restraint. A repeat of the violence can damage the fabric of the nation, he told reporters on Wednesday.

Reconciliation

Dradjad Wibowo, a spokesman for Prabowo’s 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.”

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. The nation’s benchmark stock index, rupiah and bonds fell on Wednesday, but Aberdeen Standard Investments expects investors to focus more on the country’s growth prospects.

Growth Focus

“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.”

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

(Updates with Prabowo’s court appeal in third paragraph.)

--With assistance from Yoga Rusmana, Fathiya Dahrul, Harry Suhartono and Eko Listiyorini.

To contact the reporters on this story: Karlis Salna in Jakarta at ksalna@bloomberg.net;Tassia Sipahutar in Jakarta at ssipahutar@bloomberg.net;Arys Aditya in Jakarta at aaditya5@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Thomas Kutty Abraham at tabraham4@bloomberg.net, Ruth Pollard

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