A runoff election between Jakarta Gov. Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama and challenger Anies Baswedan is expected to be held in April after exit polls from Wednesday voting showed neither candidate had topped the 50 percent threshold to win outright.
Ahok and Deputy Jakarta Gov. Djarot Saiful Hidayat, who were polling at about 43 percent of votes cast, led Anies and his running mate, Sandiaga Uno, by about three points, according to exit polls. The Agus Harimurti Yudhoyono-Sylviana Murni ticket finished a distant third with about 17 percent of the vote, and was facing elimination.
The elections in Jakarta were among 101 polls in gubernatorial, mayoral and other contests held across predominantly Muslim Indonesia on Wednesday. The vote in the Indonesian capital was being closely followed race because the incumbent governor, Ahok, is a Christian member of Indonesia’s ethnic Chinese minority who is simultaneously standing trial on blasphemy charges for alleged anti-Islam comments.
A runoff vote is expected to be scheduled for April 19 but could be delayed, according to election officials.
“Usually in the second round, because it is head-to-head, the political tension is higher than the first round, so extra security is needed to ensure the elections would go safely and peacefully,” Sumarno, chairman of the Jakarta Election Commission, told BenarNews.
In the Indonesian capital turnout was high, with about 80 percent of the 7.1 million eligible voters – going to the polls.
After casting his ballot at the Gambir polling station in Central Jakarta, President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo called on Indonesians to stay united.
“Don’t let political differences divide us or divide our unity,” he told reporters.
On Wednesday there were no reports of violence at polling stations in Jakarta and others parts of the country.
At least 29,000 police and military personnel were on duty during voting hours in Jakarta. No incidents or disruptions were reported, according to local police.
Analysts expect a runoff election to be fierce.
Ahok has been the target of a series of protests that have drawn tens of thousands of people since he made a public comment about a verse in the Quran in September 2016 that upset conservative Muslims.
“The second round will get dirty. The primordial, religion and race issues will get noisier. A certain candidate will become the target of a black campaign and hoax,” Tobias Basuki, a political analyst with Jakarta-based think-tank Center for Strategic International Studies (CSIS), told BenarNews.
He predicted that many of those voters who went for Agus-Sylvi would support Anies-Sandiaga because of the anti-Muslim allegations against Ahok. Anies is a former education minister in Jokowi’s cabinet.
“We will see later whether the negative sentiment toward Ahok will be stronger than people’s objectivity in viewing Ahok’s performance,” Syamsuddin Haris, a political observer with the Indonesian Institute of Sciences, told BenarNews.
Even as pollsters predicted a second vote in April, Sumarno said it was too early to call the race as official counting had not finished.
If no one reaches the 50 percent threshold after the votes are counted and there are no appeals to the Constitutional Court (MK), the second round will be held on April 19, Sumarno said. If a lawsuit is filed, the election commission would adjust its schedule.
“Usually it takes a maximum of 45 days. So if there is a lawsuit, the second round could be in June,” he said.
Ahok thanked his supporters on Wednesday.
“The fight has not finished, our spirit never dies. People believe in social justice for all of Jakarta’s citizens. It turns out we still are trusted the most,” he said.
Anies said Jakarta citizens must determine who will lead the capital city over the next five years.
“We are grateful the campaign process went well and God willing, we believe the citizens of Jakarta will choose the best for them,” he said.
Along with Jakarta, voters went to the polls to elect leaders in the provinces of Aceh, Bangka Belitung, Banten, Gorontalo, West Sulawesi and West Papua, involving 76 districts and 18 cities.National Police spokesman Martinus Sitompul reported no security incidents during the voting period, according to the Jakarta Globe.
“In Aceh, there have been no incidents. Everything is safe and will hopefully remain that way,” Martinus said, referring to the province in far western Indonesia that had been prone to conflict.