A former Indonesian education minister won the race for Jakarta governor on Wednesday after a polarising campaign that cast a shadow over Indonesia’s reputation for practising a tolerant form of religion.
Anies Baswedan won with 58 per cent of the votes versus 42 per cent for Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, known by his Chinese nickname as “Ahok”, based on 100 per cent of the votes in an unofficial “quick count” by Indikator Politik. Other pollsters showed similar results. The national elections commission will announce official results in early May.
“Going forward, the politics of religion is going to be a potent force,” said Keith Loveard, an analyst at Jakarta-based Concord Consulting and an author of books about Indonesian politics.
Baswedan’s huge margin of victory was surprising since opinion polls in the run-up to the election had pointed to a dead-heat. Purnama won the first round of voting for governor in February in a three-way race.
Indonesian social media users likened the election outcome to the shock results of the US presidential vote and the Brexit vote of last year.
The election came on the eve of a visit by US Vice President Mike Pence, as the Trump administration seeks to engage the world’s fourth-largest nation and largest Muslim-majority country as an emerging regional power.
Pence is scheduled on Thursday to visit the biggest mosque in Southeast Asia, Jakarta’s Istiqlal Mosque.
The Jakarta election will be seen as a barometer for the 2019 presidential election, given the city’s outsized importance as both the nation’s capital and commercial centre.
Purnama is backed by President Joko Widodo’s ruling party. Baswedan is supported by a retired general, Prabowo Subianto, who narrowly lost to Widodo in a 2014 presidential vote.
Police said 15 people were detained following reports of disturbances at several polling stations in the city of 10 million people, after what the Jakarta Post this week dubbed “the dirtiest, most polarising and most divisive” election campaign the nation had ever seen.
Security appeared light at several polling stations, though police said 66,000 personnel were deployed across the city.
Religious tensions have been an undercurrent in the campaign, with Purnama on trial for alleged blasphemy over comments he made last year. Hundreds of thousands of Muslims took to the streets late last year to call for his sacking and to urge voters not to elect a non-Muslim leader. One person died and more than 100 were injured after one protest turned violent.
Ismail Yusanto, spokesman for one of the groups, Hizbut Tahrir Baswedan, a respected scholar who many viewed as moderate, drew widespread criticism during the campaign when he aggressively courted the conservative vote.Baswedan will officially take over as governor in October.