Jakarta residents cast their ballots, for the second time, to elect their governor yesterday (4/19). This was because none of the candidates won 50 percent plus 1 percent votes on the first round held on February 15, 2017. As the local elections in Jakarta always attract attention from Indonesians all across the archipelago (given that Jakarta is a capital and a barometer for all provinces), the outcome of Thursday’s run-off also came as a surprise.
Based on quick counts conducted by several pollsters, former education minister, Anies Baswedan, and his running mate, Sandiaga Uno (one of the richest entrepreneurs in Indonesia), unexpectedly won the election by gaining around 58 percent of the total votes. While the incumbent, Basuki Tjahaja Purnama (also known as Ahok), and his running mate, Djarot Saiful Hidayat, only garnered 42 percent of the vote.
Baswedan, the Muslim scholar who founded a non-profit organization called Indonesia Mengajar (Indonesia teaches), which sends fresh graduates to teach in remote areas, appreciated his rival Ahok for doing a good job as governor. In addition, Baswedan said that it is time to start a new chapter and to work together to improve the life of Jakarta residents.
Ahok succumbed to defeat and congratulated Anies for winning the election. Ahok has even offered to take Anies on a tour of The City Hall, or the gubernatorial office. Ahok, the former Belitung mayor, will have the opportunity to hear Baswedan’s plans for Jakarta.
The Jakarta gubernatorial election is seen as a prelude to the presidential election. In 2012, Joko Widodo and Ahok won the gubernatorial election and in 2014 Widodo was nominated as the presidential candidate. There is therefore a saying that “if you can run the capital, you can run the country”.
Baswedan’s victory, some say, will pave the way for the Gerindra Party chief, Prabowo Subianto (former presidential candidate in the 2014 election), to run for the presidency in the election in 2019. As we know, the Baswedan-Uno pair was nominated by the Gerindra party along with other political parties and was also supported by Muslim groups. However, Vice President Jusuf Kalla stated that it was too early to predict the political constellation after the Jakarta election.
Why Did Ahok Lose The Election?
Many wondered why Ahok lost the run-off despite winning the first round. Some surveys, before the election, showed that Ahok would take the lead even though he was still facing the blasphemy case.
As a background, Ahok was named a suspect for blasphemy after citing one of the surahs in the Koran (Al Maidah:51) that bans Muslims from voting for non-Muslim leaders. During his campaign in Kepulauan Seribu last September, Ahok called on Muslim voters to not be easily deceived by that surah. Not all Muslims were aware of that statement until Muslim groups demanded that Ahok be sent to jail for blasphemy. Some had not even watched the video of his campaign that went viral.
A religious issue became one of the hottest issues during this year’s gubernatorial election. Some Muslims supported Ahok, saying that he had apologized and had done his best to improve the public service for Jakarta residents. But others think that despite praising Ahok’s performance, his style was too blunt and impulsive. Many said Ahok said whatever he wanted to say without thinking about the further impact.
Ahok divided voters. Massive protests from Muslim groups were held almost every week, demanding that the authorities put him in jail. Despite gaining strong support from the ruling party and business communities, a survey said that Jakarta residents did not want to be ruled by a governor who is a suspect. The blasphemy case also caused Ahok’s electability to drop, despite him leading in some pre-election surveys.
A political analyst said that the reason behind the Ahok-Djarot loss is that the political machines supporting the incumbent didn’t work effectively. Ahok-Djarot was nominated by six political parties and volunteers with extensive experience in the 2012 gubernatorial election (Ahok was Joko Widodo’s running mate at that time). However, those parties didn’t show solid support as there is a fraction in some parties about who to support during the election.
In addition, the video campaign showing that the Ahok-Djarot pair is a victim of discrimination was no longer effective in changing the minds of Jakarta people. The distribution of staple food a few days before the election, by the Ahok-Djarot team, also tarnished the image of the pair as it was seen as “money politics” to influence voters. The video went viral and it was a fatal blunder for the incumbent.
What about the policies? Reclamation of Jakarta’s Northern Coast is one of the most interesting issues. Some criticized Ahok for being pro-business by building that area, and it was easily utilized by the rivals to attack the incumbent.
As the article is written, the prosecutors at the North Jakarta State Court dropped the one-year sentence with a two-year probation period for Ahok. The trial will continue next week as Ahok and his lawyers will read the plea.
The party is now over. Jakarta residents appreciate the results while waiting for the official count to be released by the Jakarta General Election Commission (KPUD). No hostilities, no tension, no provocation. As many as 29 countries sent their envoys to monitor the gubernatorial election.
Some of Ahok’s working programs are quite effective and Ahok has tried his best to improve the quality of the public service in Jakarta. For example, people whose family member dies no longer have to pay for the funeral service; they only have to pay a small retribution annually, depending on the size of the chosen area in that public cemetery.
It is time for Baswedan and Ahok to work together for the betterment of Jakarta. Ahok still has some time until his service expires in October 2017. At least Baswedan can learn a lot from Ahok and Djarot about how to execute programs. No matter what happened in the past, it is the right time to unite, bury the hatchet and work for the sake of the capital.