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INDONESIA POLLS: Disputed results raise spectre of violence

Publication Date : 10-07-2014


The disputed results of Indonesia's presidential election have raised concern about potential violence by impatient supporters of the two candidates, who might have to wait until the end of next month to know who will emerge the winner.

Jakarta governor Joko Widodo and former general Prabowo Subianto yesterday both claimed to have won, throwing the hard- fought race into confusion.

Both candidates have called for calm, but at the same time, refused to budge and called for the safeguarding of their victory.

As night fell in Jakarta yesterday, hundreds of Joko's supporters gathered at the iconic Hotel Indonesia Roundabout to celebrate their victory under close watch by the police, according to the Detik news website.

Some analysts have voiced worries about outbreaks of violence, given Prabowo' open courting of right-wing groups during the campaign. These included the Islamic Defenders Front, which has a reputation for causing public mayhem and harassment of those deemed their foes.

A prolonged deadlock, which could stretch into next month, with a Constitutional Court ruling, could cause tempers to fray and leave more room for troublemaking.

But observers also note that there is a stabilising factor in President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who remains in power until October and still retains control over the police and the military.

"What happens next depends on what the government would do, and how SBY (President Yudhoyono) would maintain law and order," said Dr Leo Suryadinata, visiting senior fellow at Singapore's Institute of Southeast Asian Studies.

Some 250,000 police and military personnel were put on guard across the country shortly before polling day, precisely to keep matters under control.

"For both groups of supporters... we request that they do not mobilise their supporters excessively," said Coordinating Minister for Legal, Political and Security Affairs Djoko Suyanto last night.

The closest approximation to a post-election dispute prior to this was in the 1999 presidential polls.

At the time, the president was picked by members of the People's Consultative Assembly (MPR), and not by all Indonesians as is the case today.

In the election then, Megawati Sukarnoputri's Indonesian Democratic Party - Struggle won the most votes, but she was outmanoeuvred by the Islamic parties.

They banded together to ensure one of their own, cleric Abdurrahman Wahid from the National Awakening Party, was elected president by the MPR. She accepted the outcome.

But this time, tensions are likely to be higher given the millions of votes cast in direct polling and the already highly charged atmosphere ahead of election day.

The stand-off, and worries about violence, could hurt the rupiah and the stock market, analysts said.

"Whether the market goes up or down (today) will mostly depend on the security. For me, maintaining security is very important at this point," BNI Asset Management director Isbono Putro was quoted as saying by Reuters.

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