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Calm returns to streets of Jakarta after second night of unrest

Financial markets are firmer with the rupiah up 0.5% and the main stock index up 1.6%

Roads were abuzz with traffic again on Thursday. City workers cleaning up following two nights of clashes between security forces and protesters.


CALM returned to the streets of the Indonesian capital on Thursday after a second night of clashes between security forces and protesters angry about the outcome of last month's election, which handed President Joko Widodo a second term.

Financial markets were firmer on Thursday with the rupiah up 0.5 per cent and the main stock index up 1.6 per cent.

Taye Shim, director of capital markets at Mirae Asset Securities Indonesia, said he did not see the demonstrations as a serious threat to Indonesia's stability.

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"While upset supporters might demonstrate their disagreement with the official election results, we don't think it would be a serious threat to Indonesia's democracy," he told Reuters.

Downtown areas of Jakarta became a battlefield overnight, with police firing tear gas and rubber bullets and protesters throwing rocks and firecrackers.

Protesters also tore up pavement slabs, destroyed street signs and set ablaze food stalls and a security post.

The unrest followed Tuesday's announcement by the General Election Commission confirming that Mr Widodo had beaten his challenger, former general Prabowo Subianto, in the April 17 poll.

The violence began on Tuesday night with six killed, and two more killed on Wednesday night, officials said.

Jakarta governor Anies Baswedan said the dead included three teenagers, and 737 people were injured in the rioting, mostly in the central neighbourhood of Tanah Abang.

But the ranks of protesters thinned over Wednesday night and police spokesman Dedi Praseyto said the last ones had dispersed by 7 am.

Roads that were quiet on Wednesday - as office workers stayed away from the city centre - were abuzz with traffic again on Thursday. City workers in orange overalls swept up the debris.

Mr Widodo won more than 85 million of the 154 million votes cast but Mr Prabowo has alleged "massive cheating and irregularities" and refused to concede defeat.

The election agency has said there was no evidence of systematic cheating and independent observers have said the poll was free and fair.

Elsewhere, a mob burnt a police station on Madura island, north-east of the main island of Java, while two police posts were set ablaze in Pontianak on Borneo island, media said.

Police said the number of arrests over the riots reached 300.

National police spokesman Muhammad Iqbal told reporters at least two men detained during the riots belonged to Garis, a militant group that had pledged support for Islamic State.

"They intended to carry out jihad during May 21 and 22 protests," Mr Iqbal said.

On Wednesday, he said officers had found some of the people they searched were carrying envelopes containing money, suggesting instigators behind the trouble.

"This is not a spontaneous incident, this is something by design," he told reporters. "There are indications that the mobs are paid and bent on causing chaos." In a video on his Twitter account late on Wednesday, Mr Prabowo urged his supporters to disperse peacefully.

"I beg you to return to your homes to rest, avoid any actions that would break the law," he said.

Mr Prabowo's political party, Gerindra, complained that the authorities were trying to pin the blame for the riots on him.

Gerindra spokesman Andre Rosiade said a lawsuit would be filed at the Constitutional Court on Friday over the election result, which gave Mr Widodo a 55.5 per cent share of votes against 44.5 per cent for his challenger.

Mr Prabowo lost the 2014 presidential election to Mr Widodo by a slimmer margin and had objected to that result, lodging a complaint with the Constitutional Court that was rejected.

Analysts say Mr Widodo's double-digit victory margin deprives the opposition of a strong case to claim rigging but it may be able to count on agitation by a strong contingent of Islamist supporters.

The government boosted the numbers of security forces to 58,000 across Jakarta and put temporary blocks on some social media to prevent unrest sparked by fake news.

Police paraded suspects in orange jumpsuits besides displaying weapons and cash at a news conference.

Police chief Tito Karnavian showed reporters a sniper rifle and two pistols he said had been seized days before the rioting. REUTERS