Ahok fails to win outright, faces run-off in bitter Jakarta election

Ahok fails to win outright, faces run-off in bitter Jakarta election
An official showing a ballot paper during the election for the Jakarta Governor yesterday. The job of Governor can be a springboard to the presidency. Photo: Reuters
Published: 4:00 AM, February 16, 2017

JAKARTA — Unofficial counts indicate the acrimonious election for Governor of the Indonesian capital will proceed to a second round with the incumbent, a minority Christian, holding a slim lead in yesterday’s vote but failing to secure the 50 per cent needed for an outright win.

Most of the quick counts carried out by research companies show incumbent Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, whose campaign was hurt by blasphemy charges, winning between 40 and 43 per cent of the vote.

His rival, Mr Anies Rasyid Baswedan, a former education minister who courted conservative and hard-line Muslims, was in second place with 40.23 per cent while Mr Agus Harimurti Yudhoyono, the son of former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, was in third place with 17 per cent that eliminates him from the contest.

A candidate needs to get more than 50 per cent of the votes in the first round to win outright and official results will not be announced until later this month. The job of Governor can be a springboard to the presidency and weeks of campaigning have been overshadowed by mudslinging, political intrigue, and rising hardline Islamist sentiment, raising questions about the role of religion in politics.

“We hope that everybody can return as a family after these elections,” President Joko Widodo said after voting in Jakarta earlier yesterday.

Mr Purnama was a deputy to Mr Widodo when he served as Jakarta’s Governor. Mr Purnama, locally known as Ahok, has been campaigning while on trial on a charge of insulting the Quran, a case that has brought Muslims onto the streets, urging voters to shun a non-Muslim as a leader. Calls for Mr Purnama to be killed and anti-Chinese sentiment were disturbing elements of the protests, one of which turned violent, with dozens injured and one person dying from the effects of tear gas.

Indonesia has the world’s largest Muslim population, but is officially secular and home to minority Christian and Hindu communities as well as hundreds of ethnic groups.

Mr Baswedan is backed by a former general, Mr Prabowo Subianto, who Mr Widodo beat in the 2014 presidential election.

The elections in the capital, alongside scores of other regional polls in the world’s third-largest democracy, were peaceful and mostly running without hitches, police said. Police had deployed 75,000 personnel across Indonesia with 16,000 in Jakarta, concerned hardline Muslim groups may again take to the streets to oppose Mr Purnama.

Some analysts say it will be difficult for Mr Purnama to win the run-off election next month if the anti-Ahok camp unites behind the remaining Muslim candidate, Mr Baswedan. They also expect religious and racial divisions to be heightened ahead of the second round.

“It’s going to be very hard. The second round is going to be very ugly. The first round issues of religion and ethnicity were ugly enough,’’ said Mr Tobias Basuki, a political analyst at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies in Jakarta.

Mr Yudhoyono has seen his electability dive in polls over the past week after uninspired performances in debates. His father, the former president, has also proven something of a liability during the campaign period with his Twitter outbursts that were ridiculed on social media. The former Indonesian president also rallied against rumours that he was behind the Nov 4 mass rally that called for Mr Purnama to be jailed for allegedly insulting Islam.

“Agus Yudhoyono’s platform is mainly about giving money away, when in fact if he was to meet all of his promises of hand-outs he would bust the Jakarta budget. Many consider him too young for the job and are not impressed by his father’s continual complaints that he’s not treated fairly,” analyst Keith Loveard with Concord Consulting said. AGENCIES