Religious Politics Blamed for Electoral Defeat of Jakarta's Christian Governor

Cheryl Sanders
April 23, 2017

Anies Baswedan was on 56-57 percent in the fight to lead Jakarta compared to 41-43 percent for Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, who is battling for his job as he stands trial for blasphemy, according to early counts from several private pollsters.

His status as the first Christian governor of the capital in half a century angered hardline Muslims, but since he inherited the governorship, this election provides the first opportunity for his detractors to unseat him.

A few days prior to the election, Ahok led the polls, albeit by a small margin, and experts said the poll results were too close to call.

The defeat of incumbent Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama (better known by his nickname Ahok) in the 2017 Jakarta gubernatorial election was a disappointment to many, especially to those millions of Jakartans who were happy to have someone in office who is not corrupt and who actually made strong efforts to develop the capital city in terms of infrastructure and social welfare.

After casting his vote, President Joko Widodo - whose party backs Purnama - urged Jakarta residents to accept the result and for the city to come together after the bitterly fought poll.

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Over 7.2 million people were registered to vote in the polls, which closed at 1:00 pm (0600 GMT).

The Indonesian rupiah weakened slightly after unofficial results were announced.

After an anti-Purnama protest a year ago turned violent, authorities were taking no chances and over 60,000 security force personnel had been deployed but there was little sign of unrest.

A coalition of hardline Islamic groups that supports Mr Basedan says it is deploying at least 100 monitors at each polling station across the capital. Police blocked the plan, warning it could cause "intimidation", but groups of hardliners appeared to be outside some polling centres in defiance of the ban.

"My lawyers and I will deliver our statements then", Ahok said. In March, during the campaign, large crowds of thousands of protestors massed in Jakarta's streets to call for his imprisonment.

Baswedan courted the support of conservative clerics who opposed electing a non-Muslim.


He insinuated that his opponents had used a Quranic verse to trick people into voting against him.

Purnama, Jakarta's first ethnic Chinese and Christian leader, has denied the blasphemy charges, which carries a maximum prison sentence of five years.

Purnama's blasphemy trial resumes on Thursday and he faces up to five years in jail if convicted.

Tensions eased Wednesday night in Jakarta after the election, said Wilson, the Murdoch University research fellow. He has won praise for cleaning up once-filthy rivers and creating more green spaces, although his acerbic style has upset some. Some media outlets took this to mean that Ahok would have to serve further punishment on top of the year in jail, should he repeat the offence within the two-year probation period.

However many voters were swayed by the blasphemy controversy.


Other reports by iNewsToday

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