Calm Returns In Central Jakarta After Second Night Of Unrest

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JAKARTA: The streets of central Jakarta on Thursday (May 23) were calm after a second night of clashes between security forces and protesters angry over the outcome of last month's election, which handed Indonesian President Joko Widodo a second term.

The number of protesters thinned as the night wore on and police spokesman Dedi Praseyto said the last remaining protesters had dispersed by 7am (8am Singapore time).

Roads that were quiet on Wednesday as office workers stayed away from the city centre were abuzz with rush-hour traffic on Thursday morning.

READ: Tear gas, rubber bullets, firecrackers - Jakarta streets turn into battlefield

READ: Indonesia curbs social media, blaming hoaxes for inflaming unrest

All but one of the city's MRT stations were open and government workers in orange overalls swept debris off the streets.

Jakarta Governor Anies Baswedan said six people were killed in the first night of rioting, which was concentrated in the sprawling textile market neighbourhood of Tanah Abang. State news agency Antara reported that three hospitals had treated more than 350 people for injuries.

Damaged sign of Sarinah shopping center is seen as workers clean the area after a riot across the I
A damaged sign of Sarinah shopping center is seen as workers clean the area after a riot across the Indonesia's Election Supervisory Agency (Bawaslu) headquarters following the announcement of last month's presidential election results in Jakarta, Indonesia, May 23, 2019. REUTERS/Willy Kurniawan

The unrest followed an announcement by the General Election Commission confirming that Widodo had beaten his challenger, former general Prabowo Subianto, in the Apr 17 poll.

Widodo won more than 85 million of 154 million votes cast but Prabowo alleged "massive cheating and irregularities" and refused to concede defeat. The election supervisory agency has said there was no evidence of systematic cheating and independent observers have said the poll was free and fair.

A crowd of protesters swelled outside the supervisory agency's headquarters on Wednesday, some carrying wooden poles and some with toothpaste smeared around their eyes to mitigate the effects of tear gas.

Many left peacefully, but as night fell others hurled firecrackers and other objects at officers and set fires as they tried to breach barbed wire separating them from police. Police responded with tear gas, rubber bullets and water cannon.

Medics were seen treating dozens of protesters affected by tear gas and using oxygen to revive some who had passed out.

Many of the protesters appeared to have come from outside Jakarta and police found envelopes containing money on some of the people they searched, national police spokesman Muhamad Iqbal told a news conference on Wednesday.

Riot police officers guard during a riot near the Election Supervisory Agency (Bawaslu) headquarter
Riot police officers guard during a riot near the Election Supervisory Agency (Bawaslu) headquarters in Jakarta, Indonesia, May 22, 2019. REUTERS/Willy Kurniawan

"This is not a spontaneous incident, this is something by design. There are indications that the mobs are paid and bent on causing chaos," he said.

Probowo, in a video posted on his Twitter account before midnight on Wednesday, urged his supporters to leave peacefully.

"I beg you to return to your homes to rest, avoid any actions that would break the law," he said.

Prabowo's political party, Gerindra, complained that the authorities were trying to pin blame for the riots on him.

"We saw efforts to herd public opinion so that the peaceful protest would look like disturbing acts, with an end goal of discrediting Mr. Prabowo," Gerindra said on Twitter.