Indonesia warns against protests as Widodo rival rejects results

Indonesia warns against protests as Widodo rival rejects results

Joko Widodo car surrounded Indonesia
Supporters surround a vehicle carrying Indonesian President Joko Widodo after the country's general election in Jakarta on Apr 17, 2019. (Photo: AFP/Bay Ismoyo)

JAKARTA: Indonesian authorities warned Thursday (Apr 18) against mass protests as a firebrand ex-general rejected unofficial election results that appeared to hand President Joko Widodo a second term as leader of the world's third-biggest democracy.

National Police Chief Tito Karnavian said Wednesday's "smooth and safe" polls would not be disrupted by demonstrations, and warned of arrests.

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"If there are any illegal or unconstitutional actions that threaten public stability and security, (authorities) will take firm action," he said.

"We won't tolerate it.

"I urge everyone against mass demonstrations, whether it's to celebrate or to express dissatisfaction" at the results, Karnavian added.

Worker prepares election materials to be distributed to polling stations at a sports hall in Jakarta
A worker prepares election materials to be distributed to polling stations at a sports hall in Jakarta, Indonesia April 16, 2019. REUTERS/Edgar Su

The streets of the capital Jakarta were quiet Thursday after as many as 190 million voters in the Muslim-majority country cast their ballots in the one day poll, which featured a record 245,000 candidates, to elect a new president, parliamentarians and local legislators.

While official results are not due until next month, a series of so-called "quick counts" by pollsters showed Widodo between 9-11 percentage points ahead on Thursday.

Quick counts have been reliable indicators in past elections, but Widodo held off declaring victory - while his rival Prabowo Subianto insisted he was the Southeast Asian archipelago's next leader.

Elections in Indonesia
Indonesian presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto greets supporters after polls closed in Jakarta, Indonesia April 17, 2019. REUTERS/Willy Kurniawan

The former general - who has close ties to the Suharto dictatorship, which collapsed in 1998 - earlier warned he would challenge the results in court if he lost and stage street protest over allegations of voter fraud.

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"We will not use illegal tactics because we have won," Subianto said Wednesday.

"For those who defended (my rivals), I'm still going to defend you. I'm the president of all Indonesians."

The 67-year-old, who has long had his eye on the country's top job, lost to Widodo in 2014 and then mounted an unsuccessful legal challenge to that election.

Elections in Indonesia
Indonesia's President Joko Widodo reacts after a quick count result during the Indonesian elections in Jakarta, Indonesia April 17, 2019. (Photo: REUTERS/Edgar Su)

Online, the retired military man was pilloried by netizens who poked fun at his repudiation of the unofficial results and for kissing the ground as he declared himself president.

"We honestly feel sorry for Prabowo, not because he's lost the election (again) but because he is surrounded by people who made him a zombie who can't differentiate between reality and illusion," said one Twitter user with 165,000 followers.

National newspapers called for reconciliation, with top-selling Kompas saying "Let's Unite" while Tempo declared it "One More Time" for Widodo.

Financial markets cheered the preliminary results, with the Jakarta composite stock index and rupiah currency both higher in the morning.

Source: AFP/ad

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