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Indonesian presidential challenger appeals election loss

Joko Widodo’s rival Prabowo Subianto, a retired general with strong ties to the Suharto dictatorship that collapsed in 1998, has claimed that the 17 April poll was a fraud.

FILE: Indonesia's Joko Widodo. Picture: AFP.

JAKARTA - Indonesia’s opposition candidate lodged an appeal on Friday over claims that he lost the presidential election due to widespread cheating, allegations that spawned deadly rioting in the capital Jakarta.

At least eight people were killed, and hundreds were injured in two nights of street battles between police and protesters opposed to Joko Widodo being re-elected leader of the world’s largest Muslim-majority country.

The level of violence in the capital had not been seen in years.

Widodo’s rival Prabowo Subianto, a retired general with strong ties to the Suharto dictatorship that collapsed in 1998, has claimed that the 17 April poll was a fraud.

On Friday, his legal team filed a formal challenge to the results at Indonesia’s Constitutional Court, according to an AFP reporter at the scene.

The court is expected to issue a ruling by the end of June.

Election officials and analysts have discounted Subianto’s rampant cheating claims, and he lost a similar court battle in 2014 when Widodo defeated him.

Official results this week showed Widodo won the election, setting off peaceful demonstrations by Subianto supporters.

But as thousands flowed into central Jakarta on Tuesday and Wednesday evening, some protesters hurled stones, fireworks and Molotov cocktails at police lined up behind a razor wire barricades near the election supervisory agency building.

Police fired water cannons, tear gas and rubber bullets at crowds, as dozens of cars were torched.

By Thursday the chaos had subsided, but parts of the city’s downtown core remained blocked off and heavily guarded by tens of thousands of military and police.

Since the rioting, more than 400 demonstrators have been arrested, according to police, who blamed the violence on “provocateurs” they claimed mixed with the crowd to stir up trouble.

Police have offered few details on how the demonstrators died or who was responsible, though earlier said some had gunshot and blunt force wounds.

Authorities denied firing live rounds into the crowd.

About 900 people were injured in the riots, according to the Jakarta Health Agency.

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