Updated at 5:35 P.M. ET on 2019-05-21
Fresh from winning his second five-year term, Indonesia's President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo vowed Tuesday to protect the interest of all citizens, as his defeated rival's supporters launched street protests in Jakarta questioning the result of the elections held last month.
Jokowi garnered 55.5 percent of ballots in the April 17 presidential election, beating for the second time his challenger, retired army Gen. Prabowo Subianto, according to the General Elections Commission (KPU) in a surprise announcement made one day earlier than scheduled amid concerns of mass protests.
In what was seen as one of the most divisive elections in Indonesia's history, Jokowi received 85.6 million votes while Prabowo got nearly 68.8 million, the final tally showed. The official results confirmed “quick count” exit polls that independent pollsters conducted and released hours after the election.
“I and Kyai Haji Ma’ruf Amin are grateful for the trust given to us,” Jokowi said, referring to his running mate during a press conference in a Jakarta slum.
“We will answer the people’s trust for us by creating development programs which are equitable and just for people from all walks of life in every corner of the country,” Jokowi told reporters and hundreds of people who jostled to catch a glimpse of the president.
'We will fight hard for all Indonesian people'
However, Prabowo refused to concede defeat, saying he would challenge the results which, he continued to allege, resulted from massive and systematic fraud.
Indonesian media reported that police had arrested several of hundreds of people protesting outside the offices of the Election Supervisory Agency in the heart of Jakarta's commercial and government district.
Police armed with riot shields shot tear gas and fired water cannons at some stone-throwing protesters at Tanah Abang in Central Jakarta early Wednesday Indonesian time, after they refused to disperse, live footage from KompasTV showed.
There were about 1,000 Prabowo supporters at a rally that ended peacefully but later police fired tear gas as some protesters hurled fireworks and other objects at officers in riot gear, TV footage showed and acording to reports.
KPU Chairman Arief Budiman said the Prabowo camp had three days to challenge the results before the Constitutional Court.
Barring a successful challenge, Jokowi will be sworn in for a second and final five-year term on Oct. 20. The election was a rematch of the 2014 presidential polls that pitted Jokowi, the then-mayor of Jakarta, against Prabowo, a former general in the Indonesian army special forces.
Accompanied by running mate Sandiaga Uno, Prabowo insisted that the election was marred by widespread irregularities.
“We will not accept the vote count conducted by the KPU as long as it’s the result of fraud,” Prabowo told reporters gathered at his home in south Jakarta.
“We will make every legal effort afforded by the constitution to defend the sovereignty of the people whose constitutional right has been denied in this election,” he said.
The election exposed divides in Indonesian society, not only between Muslims and non-Muslims, but also between Muslims who are tolerant and rooted in local values such as Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), and those who follow more Middle Eastern-oriented clerics,” said Achmad Sukarsono, a senior analyst at Control Risks, a Singapore-based consultancy.
On Monday, the Election Supervisory Agency, the nation’s electoral watchdog, dismissed the Prabowo campaign’s allegations, saying there was not enough evidence to support them.
The official results were to be released on Wednesday, but were moved up a day early after Prabowo’s supporters threatened to hold a massive rally in front of the KPU building in central Jakarta.
National police spokesman Muhammad Iqbal said 40,000 police and soldiers had been deployed to provide security.
“Our analysis is that not all protesters have peaceful intentions,” Iqbal said, adding that police had arrested would-be protesters suspected of carrying fuel bombs.
“Some groups tried to carry bamboo spears. This is dangerous and the public should know this,” he said.
Security Affairs Minister Wiranto urged Prabowo supporters not to take to the streets, saying their action would “undermine democracy and hurt people.”
“It’s a misguided act and is not supported by the majority of the people,” he said, adding that stern action would be taken against those violating the law.
Prabowo called on his supporters to protest the vote results in a nonviolent way.
“I urge volunteers and supporters to maintain order and peace and that all actions are conducted peacefully and constitutionally,” Prabowo said.
Last week, police said they had arrested 29 suspected militants who were alleged to be plotting to set off bombs at a political rally that was expected after official poll results were announced on May 22, as originally scheduled.
In addition, police and military police said they had arrested retired Maj. Gen. Soenarko, a former commander of Kopassus, the army’s special forces wing, for alleged treason and illegal possession of firearms. Soenarko supports Prabowo, an ex-Kopassus commander.
Police also arrested National Mandate Party politician Eggi Sudjana and Prabowo campaign member Lieus Sungkharisma on charges of treason after they called for election protests.
‘Step that must be taken’
Sirojuddin Abbas, a political analyst with Saiful Mujani Research and Consulting, said Prabowo was in the right to challenge the election results.
“This is a constitutional step that must be taken,” he said, adding that the protest could bring clarity to the question of electoral integrity.
Another analyst, Ray Rangkuti with election watchdog Lingkar Madani, predicted that protests would last for a few days before dying down.
“Two days to a week later, they will start preparing again for the next election. This has been a kind of tradition in Indonesia after every level of election,” Ray told BenarNews.
He criticized security forces’ response to threats of protests, saying it showed that the government panicked.
“Of course such attitudes more or less tarnished the victory of Mr. Jokowi and could potentially lead to new problems,” he said.
Foreign leaders, meanwhile, began to congratulate Jokowi on his re-election.
“I wish to congratulate Bapak @jokowi for the win and officially elected as Indonesia president. I hope the cooperation between the two countries will be stronger after this,” Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said in a Twitter post.
“Warmest congratulations @jokowi on your re-election as President of Indonesia. Indonesia is one of Australia’s most important strategic relationships. We look forward to further deepening ties between and across all of our shared interests,” tweeted Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, fresh from his own electoral victory.
Tia Asmara in Jakarta contributed to this report.