JAKARTA – Hundreds of supporters of a candidate for president of the opposition marched in Indonesia on Friday to protest against what they call electoral fraud, as the government warned that efforts to cast doubt on the outcome could be a betrayal.
The demonstrators, spurred on by the unofficial results of last month's elections that show that Prabowo Subianto has lost the incumbent president Joko Widodo, have asked for fairness and vigilance in the vote counting process.
"We want this agency to do its job as equitably as possible," said Tita Hutagalung, a 50-year-old housewife who joined the protest outside the election agency in central Jakarta.
Election agency officials offered no immediate comment.
The third largest democracy in the world held the largest single-day elections on April 17 to elect a national and regional president and parliaments.
Widodo obtained 56 percent of the popular vote against 43 percent of Prabowo, a champion of votes counted by private pollsters. The General Electoral Commission will announce the official results on 22 May.
Although many independent observers and analysts have claimed that the elections were free and fair, Prabowo refused to admit defeat, with his electoral team repeatedly accusing him of irregularities.
During a briefing this week, the challenger reiterated that his team's vote count put him in the head, asked for an independent review of the result and said he was pessimistic that the judges would do him justice.
"This time I will not accept a fraudulent result," he told foreign correspondents and diplomats, adding that the situation could trigger street protests in "people's power" style.
"If there is no recourse to justice, all the ways have been corrupted, how can you expect 267 million people to lie down and behave as if we were goats and sheep?" asked Prabowo.
He just lost the 2014 presidential election to Widodo, which received 53% of the popular vote.
High-level government officials have warned interruptions or offers to delegitimize the result of the survey which could be a betrayal.
"If it is run by force, it is a betrayal and there are laws to deal with it," Defense Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu told reporters this week.
Also this week, a major supporter of the opposition was named a suspect in a treason case and others were reported to the police on similar charges.
Prabowo supporters pledged to protest peacefully and regularly if the official result confirms Widodo's victory.
"Do not blame people if they ask for the truth", said one of them, retired military officer Rihananto Baroto, 67 years old.
"Nothing can contain the power of the people … and even the military will not be able to resist the anger of the people." – Reuters