Calm in Jakarta after two days of riots, security still tight outside election supervisory agency

Jakarta as seen at 9.30am local time on Thursday (May 23). The city is beginning to return to normal after the capital saw two days of violent protests against the results of last month's election. ST PHOTO: WAHYUDI SOERIAATMADJA

JAKARTA - Life is returning to normal in Jakarta after two days of riots over the results of last month's presidential election, which the authorities said were orchestrated by thugs paid to vandalise, attack officers and stir tensions.

On Thursday morning (May 23), many road blockades were removed and motorists were back on the roads. Businesses were preparing to reopen and cleaners were seen picking up used plastic mineral water bottles and other rubbish.

National police spokesman Dedi Prasetyo told Kompas TV that road blockades remained outside the election supervisory agency Bawaslu, the centre of the protest rallies.

Police officers guarded the major thoroughfare surrounded by a shopping centre, hotels and government offices.

MRT services resumed operations at 8.30am local time on Thursday, serving all stations except the one near the Bawaslu headquarters.

Mr Harry Sukisman, owner of household goods shop Toko Jaya which is 400m from Bawaslu, was busy serving customers while he was still preparing to reopen shop after two days of closure.

"We could see this morning that the road in front of us got crowded again with cars, so we decided to reopen shop," the 68-year-old told The Straits Times.

Tensions had increased after the election commission declared on Tuesday that incumbent Joko Widodo defeated Mr Prabowo Subianto with a 55.5 per cent share of the votes in the April 17 presidential election.

Mr Prabowo has rejected the result, alleging widespread fraud. He plans to file a legal challenge in the Constitutional Court on Thursday.

Rallies organised to protest against the election results on Tuesday were relatively peaceful until late evening when new groups of people arrived outside the Bawaslu headquarters and attacked anti-riot police. Some of the rioters jumped over the barb wire fencing and entered the Bawaslu premises.

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In Petamburan, West Jakarta, on Tuesday night, rioters set fire to cars and trucks parked near the mobile brigade police (Brimob) dormitory where officers live with their families.

The clashes at the Bawaslu headquarters and other parts of the city continued for a second night on Wednesday, leading to massive road diversions, the suspension of train and bus services, and business closures.

President Joko warned on Wednesday night that the authorities would crack down on those seeking to disrupt the democratic process.

Seven people were killed and more than 300 were wounded in the two days of unrest.

As of Wednesday night, 257 suspects had been arrested, including men from neighbouring Banten and West Java, as well as Lombok island in West Nusa Tenggara province.

Police said these men were armed with metal arrows, sickles, Molotov cocktails and firecrackers. Envelopes stuffed with cash were seized, leading the authorities to say that the unrest was planned.

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