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Indonesia's fuel price hike plan in jeopardy

31 march 2012, 12:36
Indonesian students chant during a rally against the government's plan to hike prices of fuel. ©AFP
Indonesian students chant during a rally against the government's plan to hike prices of fuel. ©AFP
A controversial plan to hike the heavily subsidised fuel price in Indonesia was in jeopardy Friday after parliament's second-largest party voiced last minute opposition to the move, AFP reports.

Lawmakers began a final leg of deliberations at 10am (0300 GMT) and were widely expected to vote on the hike by the end of the day, with the coalition government holding the majority of seats.

But after weeks of nationwide and sometimes violent protests across Southeast Asia's biggest economy, the Golkar Party, a member of the coalition, withdrew its support for the price rise late Thursday.

"The Golkar Party says that there is no need to raise the fuel price," party chairman Aburizal Bakrie said, adding that the government could afford to keep subsidies high.

Golkar's opposition means that there are now more parliamentarians against the hike than in favour of it.

For weeks the leading Democratic Party's coalition government had presented a united front on the move which would see the price of fuel rise from Rp 4,500 ($0.49) a litre to Rp 6,000.

Police doubled their presence on the streets of the capital Jakarta Friday after protests turned violent Thursday.

Around 40,000 police and soldiers were safeguarding the city, with protest organisers estimating more than 80,000 people would take to the streets across the country, national police spokesman Saud Usman Nasution told AFP.

At least 19 people, including 10 police, were injured in the capital Thursday, with protesters hurling stones and police retaliating with tear gas and water cannons to disperse crowds.

"About 54 protesters are now in police custody for being anarchic in last night's protest. Besides torching a police post, more than a thousand student protesters set fire to a police car and motorcycle last night," Nasution said.

Hundreds of protesters had started gathering outside parliament house by Friday mid-morning.

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