Indonesia votes: Security beefed up on ground, online

JAKARTA • Indonesian police have stepped up cyber patrols, targeted potential conflict hot spots and prepared contingency plans to ensure security ahead of today's elections.

It is the first time the country is holding simultaneous presidential and legislative elections, in which more than 192 million people are eligible to vote.

Incumbent President Joko Widodo is seeking his second and final term in office, squaring off with his only rival, former army general Prabowo Subianto, in a rematch of their 2014 contest. Indonesia holds a general election every five years.

With tensions high in some parts of the country - especially where both camps have similar numbers of supporters - police have anticipated every worst-case scenario and mapped out areas most prone to social conflicts and disputes, police spokesman Dedi Prasetyo said.

Among the 34 provinces, the most vulnerable ones are Jakarta, Central Sulawesi, Papua, and West Java, according to Brigadier-General Dedi. For towns or regencies, Tangerang Selatan of Banten province, North Jakarta, West Jakarta, Pidie Raya of Aceh, and Tanah Datar in West Sumatra need to be closely watched due to the tensions.

Some 272,880 police personnel, assisted by 68,854 military officers, will help to provide security at polling stations across the world's largest archipelagic state, and patrol vital national installations such as power plants and airports as well as places where crowds gather, such as shopping malls.

More than one million civilian security guards will also be deployed to some 810,000 polling stations.

 
 

Some elements in both Mr Joko's and Mr Prabowo's camps have repeatedly issued appeals to fellow supporters to turn up at the polling stations in a show of force to raise the morale of other voters in their respective camp.

Police have appealed to local election supervisory officers in the regencies and towns to work together with local campaign teams of both camps to tell supporters to exercise restraint.

"We are also stepping up cyber patrols, working with the communication and information ministry and the cyber body and national encryption agency (BSSN) to take down and block any content, anonymous accounts that carry hoaxes, provocative, agitative messages that threaten unity," Brig-Gen Dedi said. "Social media has potential to change public opinion, to agitate people and encourage them to take to the streets. This is dangerous."

Officers guarding the elections are being deployed into seven assignment areas, with each area covering several provinces. If an incident breaks out in one place, personnel from the same area and neighbouring areas could be redeployed to the problem spot, he said.

He added that a 10,000-strong police mobile brigade on standby outside Jakarta could also be redeployed.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 17, 2019, with the headline 'Security beefed up on ground, online'. Print Edition | Subscribe