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Politicians blamed for Jakarta protest

JAKARTA – Indonesian President Joko Widodo lashed out at politicians for stoking a huge protest by Muslims that briefly turned violent on Friday night as a hardcore group pressed for the resignation of Jakarta’s governor, a Christian they say insulted the Koran.

The first ethnic Chinese politician to lead this sprawling city of 10 million, Basuki Tjahaja Purnama is standing for re-election in February, competing with two Muslims for the job.

The governorship of the capital is a powerful position and it was a stepping stone for Joko Widodo to the presidency of the country two years ago.

At a news conference held early yesterday morning, Widodo called for calm and took a swipe at politicians – whom he didn’t name – for whipping up die-hard demonstrators after most had already gone home.

“…we deplore the incident after the Isha prayers, when (demonstrators) should have already disbanded but became violent. And, we see this was steered by political actors who were exploiting the situation,” Widodo said.

Police fired tear gas and water cannon to subdue a restive crowd that police said swelled to about 150,000 after Friday prayers as they congregated around the presidential palace.

Some protesters threw rocks at the police, two vehicles were torched, and a fire broke out near the city’s National Monument, but by the evening, the demonstration was fizzling out. (Reuters)