Indonesian police warn against protests as Jokowi rival Prabowo rejects 'quick count' results

While official results are not due until May 2019, a series of so-called "quick counts" by pollsters showed President Joko Widodo (left) between nine and 11 percentage points ahead of presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto on April 18, 2019. PHOTOS: ARIFFIN JAMAR, EPA-EFE

JAKARTA (AFP) - Indonesian authorities warned on Thursday (April 18) against mass protests as a firebrand former 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.

"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)," he added.

The streets of the capital Jakarta were quiet on 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 Mr Joko between nine and 11 percentage points ahead on Thursday.

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

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 protests over allegations of voter fraud.

"We will not use illegal tactics because we have won," Mr Prabowo said on 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 Mr Joko in 2014 and then mounted an unsuccessful legal challenge to that election.

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 Mr Joko.

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

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