What’s Next for Jakarta Governor-Elect Anies Baswedan?

28 April 2017 Jarryd de Haan, Research Analyst, Indian Ocean Research Programme

Background

Muslim candidate Anies Rasyid Baswedan won the majority of the vote in the second round of the Jakarta election on 19 April by a significant margin of sixteen per cent against Chinese-Christian candidate Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama, who had won the first round of elections. Religious tensions fuelled by hardline groups such as the Islamic Defenders Front (Front Pembela Islam: FPI), played a major role in the outcome of the second round of the election. The tensions saw a significant proportion of the city’s Muslim voters, despite having been satisfied with the work done by Ahok, not vote for him on religious grounds. Admittedly, though, it was not only religious tensions that cost Ahok the election. Controversial policies, including the eviction of slum residents and the demolition of their dwellings along riverbanks, together with his kasar (rude or brash) manner of speaking, which went against the Indonesian etiquette of speaking halus (smoothly and politely), also divided public opinion. Anies will officially take the post of governor in October this year.

Comment

During his election campaign, Anies made 23 promises, of which three were outlined as priorities. First, Anies will look to provide job training and business loans to small-scale entrepreneurs. Second on the list is improving the Smart Card Jakarta (KJP) programme to give lower-income families better access to religious education and basic goods in addition to the free healthcare and education already provided by the programme. Third, Anies promised a housing plan that will allow those in the lower income demographic to purchase a home with no down payment. That promise has proved to be the most controversial, with Bank Indonesia calling it impossible and against the rules set in place; it was also the most popular among his supporters. Other promises are also ambitious, including a flat 5,000 rupiah ($0.50) cost for public transport tickets, building a stadium that will hold around 85,000 people and the creation of over 200,000 new jobs. Whether he can fulfil these promises is difficult to tell, although there is reason to doubt his ability to do so as they are quite vague, particularly when compared to the promises that President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo made in 2012, which were very specific and practical. Additionally, policy was not at the forefront of the Anies campaign, and it is likely that the months leading up to his governorship will be spent on working out his actual policies. Anies could also use the ambitious nature of his policies to contest the next presidential elections in 2019 by asserting his need for presidential powers to fulfil them.

There have been calls for Anies to unite Jakarta and heal the divisions which appeared during the election campaign. That is easier said than done, however, as he probably will not have enough influence to do that and there may even be a lack of incentive for him to quell the same divisions that helped to propel him into power. There could also be concern for Jakartans over any potential influence that the FPI might hold over Anies, given its role in stoking those tensions. While the divisions would seem to have served their purpose for now, if Anies is to stand for the presidency, the same tensions which were so successful in winning the governorship could be utilised again. While the situation will be different, as Anies would be up against other Muslim candidates, similar claims and tensions could be used to damage Jokowi’s support, given how close he was to Ahok during the Jakarta elections. They could prove to be very effective, especially if Ahok is found to be guilty of the blasphemy charges levelled against him, as it will enable Jokowi’s opponents to label him a friend or supporter of a blasphemer.

Overall, the outcome of the election is a significant defeat for Jokowi and the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (Partai Demokrasi Indonesia Perjuangan: PDI-P). With Anies in the position of Jakarta Governor, it is likely that he will stand against Jokowi at the 2019 presidential election. The level of popularity that he can take into the presidential campaign, however, will strongly depend on whether he delivers on his promises as Jakarta Governor and the extent to which Jokowi’s support is tarnished by his associations with Ahok. The successful use of “dirty politics” seen in the Jakarta election may make a return for the 2019 presidential campaign.

Any opinions or views expressed in this paper are those of the individual author, unless stated to be those of Future Directions International.

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