As night fell in the Indonesian capital last Wednesday, Dita Hidayatunnisa could sense trouble in the air. The 27-year-old teacher and administrator had made the journey from her hometown of Bekasi in West Java to join protests against the re-election of incumbent President Joko Widodo . But for the second day in a row, protests descended into riots . Lengthening shadows in the diminishing light added a sinister side to the change in mood that Dita and her friends felt sweeping through Jalan M.H. Thamrin – the broad, six-lane avenue outside the offices of Indonesia’s elections supervisory agency in the heart of the city. “The people around us were suddenly different. They weren’t just shuffling around like the rest of us. They seemed to have a purpose,” she says. “They were carrying banners but also sharpened staffs of bamboo.” Dita and her group of 15 friends had arrived in Jakarta by train earlier in the day. As a diehard supporter of Widodo’s presidential challenger, Prabowo Subianto , she had been drawn to the demonstrations by claims of electoral fraud. Jakarta traders pick up the pieces after days of chaos Dita is forthright: “If there hadn’t been any cheating, Prabowo would have won by up to 53 per cent.” She even produced video evidence to support her assertions, which, needless to say, have been refuted by Indonesia’s General Elections Commission. The body declared Widodo the victor last Wednesday by a margin of more than 17 million votes. According to the final count, the president secured more than 55 per cent of the ballots. Violent unrest had already broken out a day earlier, and Dita and her friends were taking no chances. They made careful preparations before leaving home on Wednesday morning, packing masks and smearing their cheeks with toothpaste, which they believed would help protect against tear gas. Police draw Islamic State links to Jakarta protests that killed seven When they reached Jalan M.H. Thamrin at noon, the normally bustling area in front of the five-storey elections agency building was occupied by only a handful of protesters and a few scattered groups of riot police. A street orator tried to lift spirits amid oppressively hot and sultry weather. He called for further investigations into the deaths of hundreds of polling station workers over the course of vote counting – a demand met with cheers from the protesters. As sundown approached, Dita noticed the crowds had grown and the newcomers seemed less friendly. Sensing tension, she and her friends decided to leave, and by 7pm were at a station waiting for a train back to Bekasi . For the rest of the night, Dita’s phone was bombarded with hundreds of messages and photos showing the chaos unfolding in Jakarta. She – like many others – was left wondering how demonstrations that started off peacefully could have turned so nasty. The violence caused the deaths of seven people and led to hundreds more being injured, according to police. Man nabbed for hoax saying ‘police from China’ shot rioters Dita’s everyday life is not quite so dramatic. She works at a private school and tutoring centre founded by her father. The facility is not much to look at – a few rooms in a small, single-storey terrace house down a nondescript lane. The business is a family affair and her sister works alongside her. She says it provides educational opportunities for people who have “fallen through the cracks”, from security guards to school dropouts. The fees are just one-third of those for similar courses at government schools, and running the centre has been a hand-to-mouth operation. Unable to access government funds, Dita believes the Widodo administration has neglected education. Indonesia must heal wounds to deliver on Widodo reforms Her family, like many in Bekasi, are long-time Prabowo supporters. Dita likes his firm public persona and is convinced he would be able to overcome the country’s racial and religious polarisation. She is also a huge fan of Prabowo’s youthful and energetic vice-presidential candidate Sandiaga Uno . She blames Basuki Tjahaha Purnama, Jakarta’s jailed but recently released ex-governor, for the worsening social divides. Dita also feels Widodo does not see opposition supporters like herself as his people, and is troubled by the spread of fake news. “It distresses me and my friends every time we read about somebody getting easily provoked with an obviously fake piece of news,” she says. As the capital slowly returns to normality (Jalan M.H. Thamrin remains closed), Widodo’s government faces the delicate task of healing the nation. Indonesia’s riots are under control – and one man is taking credit The social forces unleashed by the long and arduous election campaign will be difficult to calm, with conflicting narratives on Indonesia’s past few months remaining diametrically opposed. Dita and many like her are shocked by reports of alleged police brutality, while Widodo supporters have praised what they see as restraint from authorities in the face of unprecedented provocation by rioters. Is she confident of reconciliation? The most optimism she can muster is the expression legowo – a Javanese term that captures a sense of passive acceptance, albeit with an open heart.