Ahok Loses Jakarta Governor’s Race

Rina Chadijah
170419-Anies-1000 Anies Rasyid Baswedan (right) and running mate Sandiaga Salahuddin Uno greet supporters at a press conference after quick counts showed them winning the Jakarta governor’s election, April 19, 2017.

Former Education Minister Anies Rasyid Baswedan won the Jakarta governor’s election in a run-off vote Wednesday after a bitterly fought campaign marked by religion-based rejection of the incumbent, an ethnic Chinese Christian.

Gov. Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama, who was running for election while standing trial on anti-Muslim blasphemy charges, in the end could not overcome a tide of religious fervor against him, and the ultimate winner took away votes Ahok had won in the first round of polls in February, according to analysts.

“Efforts to neutralize those sentiments by Ahok’s camp did not prove effective because, from the beginning, they were indeed very strong,” Syamsudin Haris, a senior political analyst at the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI), told BenarNews.

Endorsements of Ahok by the Muslim-based National Awakening Party (PKB) and United Development Party (PPP) were not enough to dampen faith-based opposition to Ahok, said Deni Irvani, a researcher with Saiful Mujani Research & Consulting, which conducted quick count polls.

“The decision of the party leadership and members were not in line. The PPP was even split into two camps,” he said.

In the second and decisive round of voting, votes for Anies came from almost all areas of the capital city, suggesting that Ahok did not hold on to pockets of support he had won in the first round, Deni said.

“It’s clear that almost all of the supporters of Agus-Silvi went over to Anies-Sandi,” he told BenarNews, referring to Anies and running mate Sandiaga Slahuddin Uno and the ticket of Agus Harimurti Yudhoyono and Sylviana Murni that was eliminated in the first round.

‘God gives and God takes away’

On Wednesday, exit polls showed Anies, 47, defeating Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama by a 16-point margin, upending earlier polls that had portrayed a tight race since a first-round vote in February.

Official results will not be announced until the first of May. But so-called quick counts by several polling organizations showed Anies and his running mate Sandiaga with 58 percent of the vote, while Ahok and his deputy, Djarot Saiful Hidayat, took 42 percent.

“Believe me, God gives and God takes away. There is not a single person who can serve without God’s permission, so no need to overthink it,” Ahok, 50, told supporters gathered at Hotel Pulman in Jakarta after conceding the election late Wednesday.

Ahok thanked election workers for organizing what he characterized as safe and orderly polling. He called for unity following a hotly contested campaign that saw huge demonstrations by conservative Muslims calling for his arrest for alleged blasphemy.

“Forget all the problems during the election campaign, because Jakarta is our shared home. We must build it together,” he said.

Anies also called for unity, saying “the next phase of our work involves all Jakartans.”

“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, speaking Wednesday at Gerindra Party headquarters.

‘Nothing like what we feared’

Muslim groups that staged mass demonstrations in October, November and December calling for Ahok’s arrest for alleged blasphemy had also called for 100,000 people to turn out in Jakarta on election day on the pretext of safeguarding ballots.

But police forbade the gatherings, and National Police Chief Tito Karnavian said there were no reports of demonstrations by the so-called Jakarta Victory Movement, or groups of people rallying outside the city limits and then trying to get in.

He said there were no notable incidents during the voting and that reports of voter intimidation at some sites turned out to be mere “misunderstandings” when checked.

“Since morning, it’s been normal here, running smoothly. Nothing like what we feared,” Suprapto, a resident of Mampang, South Jakarta told BenarNews at his polling place.

After exercising his voting rights, President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo said the Jakarta elections would run smoothly and bring the city a trusted, capable leader.

“Whatever the results, whoever is elected we must accept them gracefully,” he said, according to the website of the Indonesian cabinet secretary.


Ahok had been elected deputy governor of Jakarta in October 2012 as Jokowi’s running mate but ascended to the top spot when his boss became president two years later.

He is the highest-serving public servant from the tiny ethnic Chinese minority in Indonesian history.

But while many viewed him as tough on corruption and a driver of badly needed infrastructure improvements, he was deeply unpopular among riverbank dwellers displaced by anti-flooding programs – and among hardline Muslim groups.

Calls erupted for him to be arrested for blasphemy after he referred in public comments to a verse in the Quran that, some believe, bars Muslims from having non-Muslim leaders. An edited clip of the comment uttered at an event in September 2016 went viral.

The Islamic Defenders’ Front (FPI) – known for conducting Ramadan-time raids on ‘sinful’ businesses – and similar groups organized mass demonstrations calling for his ouster in October, November and December.

A riot broke out in front of presidential palace at the end of the Nov. 4 rally, because protesters were frustrated Jokowi would not meet with them, some said. The president turned out to pray with protesters at the next rally, on Dec. 2.

Anies, the former rector of a liberal university in Jakarta, even met with the head of the FPI during the campaign, as the fundamentalist groups flexed new political muscle.

But Ahok met them in court. His blasphemy trial began in December, putting his political future in doubt since blasphemy convictions carry five-year sentences.

Despite that, Ahok came out ahead of two challengers in the Feb. 15 election, winning 43 percent of the vote compared with 40 percent for Anies and 17 percent for a third contestant, Agus Harimurti Yudhoyono. But since no candidate topped the threshold of 50 percent, a run-off vote was required.

There was no significant difference in voter turnout between the first and second round of voting, according to Deni of Saiful Mujani Research & Consulting, which conducted quick count polls.

Jakarta will not be governed as well by Anies as it was by Ahok, Syamsudin Haris predicted – and moreover the new governor will have to clean up the mess left by the campaign, including managing groups that helped sweep him to power, such as the FPI.

According to the Indonesian political calendar, Anies will take the reins in October, and Ahok will remain governor until then. But that may depend on the outcome of his trial. At the next hearing, scheduled for Thursday, the prosecution is scheduled to rest its case against him.

Jakarta Gov. Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama (center) and Dep. Gov. Djarot Saiful Hidayat (right) appear at a press conference in Jakarta, April 19, 2017. [AFP]


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