Indonesian authorities deployed tens of thousands of military personnel and police on Jakarta’s streets on Thursday as a deadline approached for a presidential challenger to appeal claims of widespread cheating in last month’s election.
Almost 60,000 security personnel were deployed on Thursday after the President vowed he “won’t tolerate” more riots.
At least seven people have died after three days of riots blamed on supporters of Prabowo Subianto in downtown Jakarta. Nine officers had been injured, police said, but they did not give details of wounded protesters thought to number in the hundreds, according to AFP.
The riots started on May 21 when supporters of former general Prabowo tried to force their way into the offices of the election supervisory agency in downtown Jakarta, AP reported. Indonesia’s election commission on Tuesday confirmed President Joko Widodo had beaten Subianto.
The Election Commission announced that Widodo had secured a second term of the presidency with 55.5% of the votes. Subianto has since refused to accept the official outcome and has announced himself as the winner instead.
Officials from the election agency as well as analysts discounted Subianto’s claims of rampant cheating in the election. Indonesia is the world’s third-biggest democracy, after India and the United States.
The government has partly blocked access to social media – Twitter, Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram – in an effort to top fake news fanning the violence.
More than 24 vehicles have been destroyed after rioters threw rocks and Molotov cocktails at police.
Alexander Arifanto, an Indonesian politics expert in Singapore, said the rioters represent a small minority of Muslim voters. He added that most citizens have accepted the results. By supporting the protests, Prabowo has lost his legitimacy, he added.
According to the National Police, those killed in the riots were hit by blunt items or gunshots. The cause of the deaths is still being determined, with the possibility of a third party being involved not being ruled out.
Authorities claimed the riots were planned. An ambulance filled with stones was found by police and dozens of people carrying envelopes of money when they were arrested. A significant number of suspects came from outside Jakarta.
On Wednesday night, police pushed back the main group of rioters after firing tear gas and rubber bullets at the demonstrators. An Australian Broadcasting Corporation news crew said it was attacked without warning by a mob.
On Thursday, National Police spokesman Muhammad Iqbal said two of about 300 suspects arrested were linked to a hardline organization that had once pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group. Local media have speculated about a connection between the founder of the local organization and Subianto, after he lent his car to the politician’s campaign team.
Elsewhere, smaller poll protests were held in Sumatra’s Medan city this week and in Pontianak on Borneo island, where more than 500 demonstrators armed with stones and firecrackers blocked roads, damaged vehicles and set two police posts alight, local police said.
– Additional reporting by AFP