GP Short Notes

GP Short Notes # 48, 26 May 2019

Indonesia: Post-election violence
Aparupa Bhattacherjee

What happened?

On 21 May, civil unrest started in different parts of Jakarta; this has led to several injured and casualty of six people. The unrest was a fallout of a peaceful protest which was an outcome of the election commission confirmed that President Joko Widodo won last month's election, defeating his opponent General Prabowo Subianto.

The peaceful protestors raised their voice for General Prabowo, who disagreed with the election results and claimed discrepancy. However, the protest soon turned violent, as the police in riot gear fired tear gas to disperse the crowd near the election supervisory agency, the protestors retaliated by hurling fireworks and rocks at police during a stand-off. Similar clashes also started in the other part of the city. According to the news agencies, a small number of them had even attempted to storm a nearby police station.

Surprisingly, although the chief of national police has denied the use of live ammunition the primary investigation has indicated six people who died have gunshot wounds and others "blunt force wounds" as reported by the hospitals. The unrest restarted again on 22 May in several parts of Jakarta. Around 30,000 troops have been deployed, and social media has been restricted.

What is the background?

The General Election Commission (KPU) on 21 May declared the results for the Indonesian elections 2019, confirming unofficial counts by private pollsters in the April 17 election, which gave President Joko Widodo a 55.5% share of votes against 44.5% for former General Prabowo Subianto.

Prabowo Subianto had claimed his win while complaining of "widespread cheating" even after the preliminary result was declared on 17 April 2019. Also, immediately after the April declaration, the hardline Alumni 212 movement, who are supporters of Subianto, had threatened unrest. Hence, although, a small protest was anticipated as it was clear that General Subianto will not peacefully accept his failure, nevertheless, the sheer level of the violence was unanticipated.

The history seems to repeat itself in Indonesia, as 2014 General Election appears to be replicated in 2019 with the same opponents and same election result. However, this post-election violence is new and could be the outcome of General Subianto’s desperation to come to power and his failure for the second term.

What does it mean?

Although violent, it is expected that the unrest will be fizzled out soon. However, this seems to be the priority of the newly appointed president, Widodo. It could also be termed as a bad start for him. However, with him as re-elected President, there is expected to have a good start for the Indonesian economy and infrastructure development as his previous term has witnessed economic and infrastructural development. No wonder his 2019 campaign focused on his progress in poverty reduction and improving Indonesia’s inadequate infrastructure. The work in these sectors is expected boom, under his new tenure. His term will also ensure the strengthening of the countries equation with China, especially its role in the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), which is essential for Indonesian infrastructural development.  However, addressing the rise in abuses of human and minority rights, as well as rising extremism and prevention of alienating hardliners should also be his focus for this term as these issues were his major criticism from his last name