Unofficial counts indicate the acrimonious election for the Indonesian capital’s governor will head to a second round in April with the incumbent, a minority Christian, failing to secure the 50 percent needed for an outright win. Most of the quick counts carried out by research companies show incumbent Gov. “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama, whose campaign was hurt by blasphemy charges, winning 40-43 percent of the vote. Anies Rasyid Baswedan, a former education minister who courted conservative and hard-line Muslims, trails by a couple of points. Agus Harimurti Yudhoyono, the photogenic son of former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, was in a distant third place that eliminates him from the contest. Religion and Ahok’s Chinese ethnicity, rather than the slew of problems that face a car-clogged and sinking Jakarta, dominated the campaign and transformed the election into a high-stakes tussle between conservatives, who want Islam to be ascendant in politics and society, and moderates.
Ahok’s chances appeared dashed after accusations he blasphemed the Quran led to criminal charges and trial but he rebounded in opinion polls following a series of televised debates. If convicted of blasphemy, he faces up to five years in prison. “We know that you all wanted to see us win in one round, but we should be grateful for the outcome of this struggle,” he told supporters. “When many considered that nobody wants to vote for me, it turns out we are most preferred.”
The blasphemy trial and the ease with which hard-liners attracted several hundred thousand to protest against Ahok in Jakarta in November and December have undermined Indonesia’s reputation for practicing a moderate form of Islam and shaken the centrist government of President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo.
Calls for Ahok to be killed and anti-Chinese sentiment were disturbing elements of the protests, one of which turned violent, with dozens injured and one person dying from the effects of tear gas.