Indonesia election violence leaves six protesters dead and 200 injured as riots hit Jakarta

Our Foreign Staff
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At least six people died and 200 were injured as supporters of an unsuccessful presidential candidate clashed with security forces in the Indonesian capital on Wednesday.

Protesters burned vehicles and threw rocks at police, who responded with tear gas and rubber bullets in a bid to quell the unrest.

The protesters tried to force their way into the downtown offices of the election supervisory agency late on Tuesday and clashes have continued since then.

"As per 9 o'clock this morning, there were 200 people hurt being brought to five hospitals,"  Jakarta's governor, Anies Baswedan, told broadcaster TVOne.

"The number of people dead was six," he said, adding that hospitals were conducting post mortems to determine the cause of death.

Police officers inspect the damage after cars were set on fire in Jakarta  Credit: Reuters

National Police spokesman Dedi Prasetyo said more than 20 suspected provocateurs have been arrested.

Responding to reports of fatalities, he denied the police had fired live rounds.

"We are still checking, but I need to reiterate that police officers were not equipped with live bullets," he told reporters.

White-robed protesters blocked streets in one central Jakarta neighbourhood and in another, they fought running battles with police, throwing rocks and setting fires.

During the night, vehicles and a paramilitary police dormitory were set ablaze as police using tear gas, rubber bullets and water cannon battled protesters who threw molotov cocktails and burning projectiles.

Indonesia’s Election Commission on Tuesday said President Joko Widodo had won a second term with 55.5% of the vote in the April 17 election.

Police fired tear gas during a clash with mobs in the Tanah Abang Market area, Jakarta Credit: Getty

Former special forces general Prabowo Subianto has refused to accept the results and declared himself the winner. His campaign plans to challenge the election in the Constitutional Court. They allege massive fraud but have provided no credible evidence.

The government had deployed some 50,000 police and soldiers in Jakarta in anticipation of protests, said Jakarta police spokesman Argo Yuwono. Many residents have left the city and parts of the downtown are closed to traffic with the election supervisory agency and election commission barricaded with razor wire.

In the past week, authorities have arrested three pro-Subianto activists on suspicion of treason, said Prasetyo, including a retired general and former commander of Indonesia’s special forces. Police allege there was a plot to seize crucial government buildings in Jakarta.

Protesters clash with police in Tanah Abang wholesale market in Jakarta Credit: Getty

Subianto and members of his campaign team had said they would mobilise "people power" for days of street protests. The former general has also called on supporters to refrain from violence.

Subianto, who also lost to Widodo in 2014, ran a fear-based campaign, emphasising what he sees as Indonesia’s weakness and the risk of exploitation by foreign powers or disintegration. He aligned himself with hard-line Muslim groups and won massive majorities in conservative provinces such as Aceh, which follows Shariah law, but was defeated by Widodo in the president’s populous East Java and Central Java strongholds.

Widodo’s campaign highlighted his progress in poverty reduction and improving Indonesia’s inadequate infrastructure with new ports, toll roads, airports and mass rapid transit.