Ahok Wins First Round of Jakarta Elections

16 February 2017 Jarryd de Haan, Research Analyst, Indian Ocean Research Programme

Background

Unofficial results from the Jakarta gubernatorial election show that Christian-Chinese candidate Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama has come out ahead in the first round with 42.27 per cent of the votes. Closely behind is Anies Rasyid Baswedan at 39.76 per cent, who only recently surged in the polls leaving Agus Harimurti Yudhoyono with just 17.37 per cent of the vote.

Comment

As the first round of the election did not see a candidate achieve the required “fifty per cent-plus-one” majority to become governor outright, a second round poll will be held with Ahok facing off against Anies. According to a recent Strategic Weekly Analysis on the Jakarta elections, Agus’s supporters will need to be won over by either candidate if they wish to win the run-off, scheduled at this stage for 19 April. This could be more difficult for Ahok than it will be for Anies. In the election campaign, Agus did little to distance himself from the hardline group Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) who were a major factor behind the recent anti-Ahok protests. Some supporters of Agus, therefore, will likely cast their vote for Anies in the run-off as he is the other Muslim candidate. While there is no telling how many of Agus’s supporters will vote in this manner, there is a chance that it may skew the vote towards Anies.

Additionally, Agus campaigned as a champion of the poor, making promises such as a cash bonus of five million rupiah ($500) per year for unprivileged families. Ahok, on the other hand, has led a tough eviction policy during his time as governor, forcing out families living in makeshift neighbourhoods along the city’s river banks and demolishing their homes. While he has defended this policy and pointed towards efforts at their relocation in better accommodation, the policy has fuelled a level of resentment among those most affected, who are mostly poor families. This could also influence the vote of the poorer demographic in favour of Anies.

Another major obstacle facing Ahok is the ongoing blasphemy charges. If Ahok is elected in the second round, but is found guilty of blasphemy, he will be removed from office and replaced by his running mate Djarot Saiful Hidayat. Former President and current Chairwoman of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), Megawati Sukarnoputri, also has an interest in Djarot ultimately becoming governor. Megawati openly supported the Ahok-Djarot pair after Ahok agreed to run with PDI-P member Djarot rather than standing independently. It is her interest, therefore, that Djarot would ultimately become governor, as he is closer to the PDI-P.

If Ahok overcomes these obstacles and wins the second round while avoiding the blasphemy charges, the FPI and political groups who pushed for his arrest will be humiliated in the eyes of the Indonesian public. Even though these groups managed to rally a crowd of 150,000 against Ahok, their political influence will be seen as weak in comparison to the voice of the moderate majority. President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo, a champion of moderate Islam who has urged Indonesians to resist the calls of intolerant hardliners, will also benefit from an Ahok victory as it would prevent political opponents rising from the position of Jakarta governor to contest future presidential elections as Jokowi himself did in 2014.

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