Heavily armed Indonesian troops were on high alert Tuesday amid fears of civil unrest in the capital Jakarta, as the surprise early announcement of official election results handed Joko Widodo another term as leader of the world’s third-biggest democracy.
The election commission had been due to give the divisive poll’s final tally on Wednesday, but results were announced early Tuesday instead.
Presidential challenger Prabowo Subianto, a 67-year-old retired general, vowed to take his claims of widespread cheating to court as several thousand supporters rallied in the sprawling capital.
Tensions have also spiked since police said last week that they arrested dozens of Islamic State-linked terror suspects who planned to cause chaos by bombing post-election protests.
On Friday, the US embassy in Jakarta issued a heightened security alert for Indonesia, the world’s biggest Muslim majority nation which has long wrestled with Islamist militancy. Other embassies issued similar warnings.
The front of the elections commission office was barricaded with razor wire and protected by scores of security personnel Tuesday, after Subianto warned that mass demonstrations could break out if he lost.
The former military man — who has strong ties to the Suharto dictatorship which collapsed in 1998 — has unleashed a stream of rhetoric since unofficial results for the April 17 poll put Widodo ahead by a wide margin.
On Tuesday, he rejected the official results, but called on supporters to remain calm as he pursued “legal avenues” — candidates have three days to file a formal complaint at Indonesia’s Constitutional Court.
Subianto unsuccessfully challenged the 2014 election which he also lost to Widodo.
Analysts and election officials discounted his fraud claims.
“The scale of abuses and errors in the conduct of the election are clearly very minor overall,” said Jakarta-based political analyst Kevin O’Rourke.
On Tuesday, thousands of Subianto supporters marched through the streets and held a peaceful protest outside the election supervisory agency’s office — as police in riot gear looked on.
“We have only one request — that the election is honest and fair,” said 35-year-old Dani Firdaus.