Indonesia tightens security ahead of presidential race result

Unofficial counts by private pollsters show incumbent President Joko Widodo winning the election over ex-general Prabowo Subianto. (AFP)
Updated 15 May 2019
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Indonesia tightens security ahead of presidential race result

  • Nearly 32,000 police and military personnel are on standby in the capital Jakarta to safeguard the event
  • Announcement to confirm unofficial counts that shows incumbent President Joko Widodo winning the race

JAKARTA: Indonesia’s counter-terrorism squad has rounded up at least 10 people suspected of planning attacks during next week’s announcement of the results of April’s hotly contested presidential election, police said on Wednesday.
The arrests come as tension runs high and security is tightened in the world’s third-largest democracy ahead of the May 22 announcement by the General Election Commission (KPU).
It is expected to confirm unofficial counts by private pollsters that showed incumbent President Joko Widodo winning the race over ex-general Prabowo Subianto last month.
Nearly 32,000 police and military personnel are on standby in the capital Jakarta, including troops drafted in from other provinces, to safeguard the event, national police spokesman Dedi Prasetyo said.
“Through interrogation we found the suspects planned to attack mass gatherings on May 21, 22 or 23,” Prasetyo said, referring to demonstrations planned for next week.
“Their aim is to create chaos and target as many victims as possible, including police.”
The suspects belonged to Jemaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD), the largest Daesh-linked group in the country, and authorities were on the hunt for more members, he added.
Last week authorities shot dead one Islamist militant and detained six for plotting to attack police during the planned demonstrations.
Prabowo has refused to concede and his team has made accusations of “massive cheating and irregularities” in the voting and vote-counting process.
“We have won the mandate of the people,” the former special forces commander told hundreds of supporters at a campaign event on Tuesday.
“If we give up, that means we are giving in to unfairness, and that means we are betraying our own country and our people.”
His team has threatened to resort to “people power”-style street protests, although it has pledged they will be peaceful.
With more than 80 percent of ballots counted, Widodo is leading by 12 percentage points, with 56 percent of the vote, the election commission says.


Pakistan bracing for austere budget under IMF, finance chief says

Updated 25 May 2019
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Pakistan bracing for austere budget under IMF, finance chief says

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan is preparing a belt-tightening budget to tame its fiscal deficit, the de facto finance minister said on Saturday, adding that both civilian and military rulers agreed austerity measures were needed to stabilise the economy.
But Hafeez Shaikh, Prime Minister Imran Khan's top finance adviser, declined to say whether the military's hefty budget would be cut following last week's agreement in principle with the International Monetary Fund for a $6 billion loan.
The IMF has said the primary budget deficit should be trimmed by the equivalent of $5 billion, but previous civilian rulers have rarely dared to trim defence spending for fear of stoking tensions with the military.
Unlike some other civilian leaders in Pakistan's fragile democracy, Khan appears to have good relations with the country's powerful generals.
More than half of state spending currently goes on the military and debt-servicing costs, however, limiting the government's options for reducing expenditure.
"The budget that is coming will have austerity, that means that the government's expenditures will be put at a minimum level," Shaikh told a news conference in the capital Islamabad on Saturday, a few weeks before the budget for the 2019/20 fiscal year ending in June is due to be presented.
"We are all standing together in it whether civilians or our military," said Shaikh, a former finance minister appointed by Khan as part of a wider shake-up of his economic team in the last two months.
In the days since last week's agreement with the IMF, the rupee currency dropped 5% against the dollar and has lost a third of its value in the past year.
Under the IMF's terms, the government is expected to let the rupee fall to help correct an unsustainable current account deficit and cut its debt while trying to expand the tax base in a country where only 1% of people file returns.
Shaikh has been told by the IMF that the primary budget deficit -- excluding interest payments -- should be cut to 0.6% of GDP, implying a $5 billion reduction from the current projection for a deficit of 2.2% of GDP.
The next fiscal year's revenue collection target will be 5.55 trillion rupees ($36.88 billion), Shaikh told the news conference, highlighting the need for tough steps to broaden the tax base.