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Alarming message from Jakarta's gubernatorial race

  • Jakarta's gubernatorial election was seen as a litmus test for Indonesia's religious tolerance and racial harmony. Photo courtesy: AFP

Sin Chew Daily

Although the official result of Jakarta's gubernatorial election will only be published in May, media and survey institutions predict that Anies Baswedan will eventually capture 58% of the votes, defeating Basuki Tjahaja Purnama a.k.a. Ahok who is expected to bag in only 42% of votes. Ahok has since conceded defeat and congratulated his opponent.

During the first round election in February, Ahok was leading in a three-cornered fight but as no one managed to clinch more than 50% of votes, the top two candidates had to go into a second round election.

Back then analysts predicted that a second round election would be unfavorable to Ahok because voters unhappy with him would put all their votes on Anies.

Indeed, he was thumped in the second round race.

The dust has now settled on Jakarta's gubernatorial election, but the influences and impact it brings are yet to be observed. Do bear in mind that this election is no ordinary election but is widely perceived as a precursor to the 2019 presidential election.

Ahok is a close ally of President Joko Widodo and his defeat will invariably cloud the prospect of Joko's re-election bid.

Anise's win is a powerful booster for Gerindra (Partai Gerakan Indonesia Raya) leader Prabowo Subianto who strongly endorsed Anise during the campaign, and is widely seen as a likely presidential contender against Joko in 2019.

While Joko still enjoys relatively high approval rating at this moment, Ahok's defeat is already sounding the alarm bell that a rising opposition force is not what the incumbent president should take lightly.

In addition, the bitterly fought gubernatorial election has been depicted as the most polarized and divided race in Indonesia teeming with religious elements. Prior to the election, the country's Muslim hardliners accused Ahok of profaning the Holy Koran, sending millions into the street in massive protests which had a major impact on the subsequent election outcome.

The election was also seen as a litmus test for Indonesia's religious tolerance and racial harmony. Ahok's defeat shows that indeed radical religious forces are on the rise. The victory of Anise has further emboldened such a sentiment that would gather more steam to crush religious tolerance, which is definitely not a good thing for the massive archipelagic republic.

As a country that is steering itself on the road to greater reforms, Indonesia needs a larger dose of moderate voices, not aggressive slogans that will choke the country's development.

Now that the curtain has fallen on Jakarta's gubernatorial election and a choice has been made by its residents, the underlying message needs to be given due attention. President Joko is now facing an enormous challenge as to how to inhibit the continuous expansion of radical religious forces in the country.


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