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Politics

Indonesia on high alert after second night of rioting in Jakarta

Police confirm that seven protesters have died in the violence

An injured police officer leaves the area with the help of colleagues after clashes with protesters in Jakarta in the early hours of Thursday.   © Reuters

JAKARTA -- Indonesia's security apparatus remained on high alert on Thursday, after protests in the capital against the official results of April's presidential election turned violent for a second night running.

Parts of the main thoroughfare in Central Jakarta leading to the building of the Election Supervisory Body, where most of the demonstrations took place, remained closed. Some stations on Jakarta's new subway system were shut, companies in the area allowed employees to work from home, and the doors of a luxurious mall in central Jakarta were locked for the day.

"The concern is slowing economic activities with malls closing and offices closing even until today," said Shinta Kamdani, deputy chair of international relations at Indonesia's Chamber of Commerce, adding that smaller merchants will also be affected. "We regret this should happen as the economy is already [facing] challenges, in addition to the global turmoil," she said.

Even so, stock markets have remained unfazed, with the Jakarta Composite Index ending Thursday's trading up 1.57% on the day.

The election results, announced in the early hours of Tuesday, showed a comfortable 11 percentage point win for incumbent President Joko Widodo over opponent Prabowo Subianto. This led to peaceful protests during the day on Wednesday, but the situation turned ugly again at night.

Protesters and security personnel clashed at at least three locations, the police said, with protesters hurling stones and some setting fires on the streets. Police responded with tear gas and water cannons. As of Wednesday, 257 people had been arrested.

Jakarta governor Amies Baswedan said on Thursday that eight people have died, while police spokesperson Dedi Prasetyo said only seven deaths have been confirmed -- all protesters. The governor added that a further 737 people had been injured, while the police said, as of Wednesday, 200 were hurt in the protests.

Protesters clash with police in Jakarta early Wednesday.   © Reuters

The police said some of those arrested likely came from outside Jakarta, with people found carrying envelopes containing rupiah notes -- suggesting they had been paid.

National police spokesman Muhammad Iqbal said on Thursday that two men detained by the police this week were affiliated with a group that has pledged support to Islamic State.

"From the testimonies of the two suspects, they intended to carry out jihad during the May 21, 22 demonstration. We found very strong evidence," the spokesperson said.

The police have separately identified some social media accounts linked to "certain groups" that have spread disinformation related to the protests. One false message that went viral allegedly showed police attacking a mosque, and others claimed security forces from mainland China took part in the Indonesian police's crackdown.

Widodo said Wednesday that he will "not tolerate ... will not give space to rioters who will damage" the country, and that the military and police will "take firm action in accordance with the prevailing rules of law."

Subianto, who has said his camp plans to challenge the official result at the country's Constitutional Court, also called for restraint on all sides.

"I appeal to all the people who convey their aspirations, the police, the military and all parties to exercise restraint, so as not to commit physical violence," he said Wednesday. "The violence [like] last night should never happen again."

He also posted a video on Twitter late Wednesday asking the protesters to "return to wherever you are staying" and "avoid any outlaw acts and always obey the law."

Nikkei staff writer Ismi Damayanti in Jakarta contributed to this article.

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