Minor clashes reported as police move to disperse protesters in Jakarta

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JAKARTA - Minor clashes were reported on Tuesday (May 21) evening as police tried to disperse some 2,000 protesters who had gathered at the headquarters of the election supervisory agency (Bawaslu), an independent agency tasked to oversee elections and rule on disputes.

The violence followed the release of official results for last month's election earlier in the day.

Tight security at the headquarters of the elections commission (KPU) with barbwire ringing both ends of the only access road to the building, deterred all protesters.

Unlike the KPU, Bawaslu headquarters is located on a main road with multiple access roads with nearby hotels, a shopping centre and government offices. Blocking access completely to Bawaslu headquarters is not possible. Protesters outside the Bawaslu building left the area around 9pm local time.

There have been fears that Islamist groups would mount protests following the announcement of the official poll results. The KPU on Tuesday announced that President Joko Widodo had been, as widely anticipated, re-elected. He won 55.5 per cent of the vote, 11 per cent more that his sole rival, Prabowo Subianto, who has continued to reject the result, citing election fraud.

Mr Prabowo's supporters have vowed to stage protests against the poll results.

Police said on Tuesday that some of the groups heading towards Jakarta from other regions had bad intentions and that street rallies, expected to intensify on Wednesday, were not a spontaneous movement.

Police said that they were organised and the mobilisation of protesters were well planned.

"Some of the people who were trying to come (to Jakarta) planned to commit anarchic acts, not just hold peaceful rallies," national police spokesman Inspector General Mohammad Iqbal told reporters.

"One example is a group nabbed in East Java that had molotov cocktails. There were other groups that brought flags and bamboo poles, whose top edges were sharpened, and slingers," Mr Iqbal added.

A number of protesters, with suspicious objects in their possession and trying to reach Jakarta, had already been intercepted by police and were not allowed to continue with their journey.

Last week, police said they had detained dozens of militants, including several who had sworn allegiance to Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). They were said to be planning to stage attacks against the police and other people during street rallies.

"We urge Bawaslu to disqualify the presidential pair No. 1 due to massive fraud," said protester Jumhur Hidayat, referring to Mr Joko and his running mate Ma'ruf Amin in the April 17 polls.

"Islamic clerics have gathered here too to fight against the rigged election," Mr Jumhur added.

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