May 10, 2019 / 11:11 AM / 4 months ago

Indonesia election tainted, opposition marchers say, but government warns against treason

JAKARTA (Reuters) - Hundreds of supporters of an opposition presidential candidate marched in Indonesia on Friday to protest against what they called election fraud, as the government warned that efforts to cast doubt on the outcome could amount to treason.

People protest outside Indonesia's Election Supervisory Board (Bawaslu) headquarters in Jakarta, Indonesia, May 10, 2019. REUTERS/Willy Kurniawan

The protesters, spurred by unofficial results of last month’s election showing that Prabowo Subianto lost to incumbent President Joko Widodo, called for fairness and vigilance in the vote counting process.

“We want this agency to do their job as fairly as possible,” said Tita Hutagalung, a 50-year-old homemaker who joined the protest outside the election watchdog in central Jakarta.

Election agency officials did not offer any immediate comment.

The world’s third-largest democracy held the biggest single-day election on April 17 to elect a president and national and regional level parliaments.

Widodo won 56% of the popular vote versus 43% for Prabowo, a sample of votes counted by private pollsters showed. The General Election Commission is to announce official results on May 22.

Although many independent observers and analysts have said the elections were free and fair, Prabowo has refused to concede defeat, with his campaign team making repeated accusations of irregularities.

At a briefing this week, the challenger once again said his own team’s vote count put him in the lead, called for an independent audit of the result and said he was pessimistic the courts would give him justice.

“This time I will not accept a fraudulent outcome,” he told foreign correspondents and diplomats, adding the situation could trigger “people power”-style street protests.

“If there is no recourse to justice, all avenues have been corrupted, how can you expect 267 million people to lie down and act as if we are goats and sheep?” asked Prabowo.

He narrowly lost the 2014 presidential election to Widodo, who got 53% of the popular vote.

Senior government officials have warned disruptions or bids to delegitimise the poll result could amount to treason.

“If it is carried out with force, it is treason, and there are laws to deal with that,” defence minister Ryamizard Ryacudu told reporters this week.

Also this week, a prominent opposition supporter was named a suspect in a treason case and others have been reported to the police on similar charges.

Slideshow (2 Images)

Prabowo’s supporters have pledged to protest peacefully and regularly if the official result confirms Widodo’s victory.

“Don’t blame the people if they demand the truth,” said one of them, retired military officer Rihananto Baroto, 67.

“Nothing can contain the ‘people power’...and even the military will not be able to resist the people’s anger.”

Reporting by Yuddy Cahya and Yerica Lai; Writing by Kanupriya Kapoor; Editing by Clarence Fernandez

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