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Jakarta Governor-elect a Scholar of Politics

BenarNews Staff
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Jakarta gubernatorial candidate Anis Rasyid Baswedan (center) is surrounded by journalists as he arrives at a polling station in the Indonesian capital, April 19, 2017.

Anies Rasyid Baswedan, a former education minister who comfortably beat the incumbent in Wednesday’s run-off election for the governorship of Indonesia’s capital, will take the helm of this sprawling and teeming city of 10 million residents in October.

The 47-year-old Anies, a Muslim who holds a doctorate in political science from Northern Illinois University in the U.S., is the ex-rector of Paramadina University, a faith-based institution of higher learning in Jakarta.

He’s an Indonesian politician who has changed his partisan stripes more than once.

With Wednesday’s win, Anies ousted Jakarta Gov. Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama, who was Joko Widodo’s running mate in his successful bid for the post in 2012 and took over when “Jokowi” became Indonesia’s president two years later. Jokowi appointed Anies as education minister but sacked him in a shake-up of his cabinet last year.

During the run-up to the presidential election, Anies took part in a convention held by the Democratic Party of out-going President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (SBY), whose son later ran for Jakarta governor but was eliminated in the first round of the race in February.

After the party led by SBY failed to nominate a candidate for the presidency in 2014, Anies switched to Jokowi’s camp, joining the team of the then-Jakarta governor and candidate from the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle as a campaign advisor.

Jokowi went up against and ultimately defeated Prabowo Subianto, whose Great Indonesia Movement Party (Gerindra) wound up endorsing Anies in the governor’s race. Amid controversy shrouding Ahok’s alleged anti-Muslim comments, Jokowi backed away from endorsing his former deputy in the Jakarta governor’s mansion.

Wednesday’s run-off vote in Jakarta was a precursor for presidential elections in 2019 that could see a re-match of the 2014 contest, according to analysts.

The Jakarta governor’s race was the most hotly contested local election in Indonesia in years, with tensions coming to the surface along religious and racial lines.

Conservative Islamic groups called for Jakartans to vote for the “Muslim candidate” against Ahok, a member of the ethnic Chinese and Christian minority who was standing trial on blasphemy charges for allegedly insulting Islam.

Anies did not use that rhetoric during the campaign but he did go to mosques to pick up support, and he met with leaders of the hardline Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) and other conservative Muslim groups that had organized mass marches in Jakarta calling for Ahok’s removal from office.

On April 12, when Anies squared off against Ahok in a final televised debate, he appeared to distance himself from Muslim hardliners by saying that, if elected governor, he would not bring Sharia law to Jakarta.

While Ahok has built a name for himself as a governor who is tough on corruption, and who cleaned up slums and the red-light district, Governor-elect Anies won out on a platform in which he promised to help poor residents of the city afford housing through a loan program with zero-down payments.

On the campaign trail, Anies also pledged to allocate some 70 trillion rupiah (U.S. $5.3 billion) to support mass organizations in the city, including Islamic groups.

“Our focus is social justice, ending inequality and our commitment is to safeguard diversity and unity,” Reuters quoted him as saying on Wednesday night.

As he closed out the victory at the polls, Anies struck a conciliatory note.

“The next phase of our work involves all Jakartans,” he told supporters at Gerindra Party headquarters.

“We may have different languages, we may have different religions, we may have different ethnicities. We may be from different parties, but we have the same blood, Indonesian blood,” he said.

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