Hardline Islamists Support Anies Baswedan to Take Over Jakarta
Anies Baswedan could usher in a dark period for Jakarta and Indonesia.
Surveys have shown the race tightening to a statistical dead heat, with incumbent Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, an ethnic Chinese Christian, closing in on the man Islamic fundamentalists have backed Anies Baswedan, a troubling turn for one of Asia’s largest cities.
Purnama is standing trial on blasphemy charges stemming from the divisive Pro-Islamic campaign that also featured mass rallies led by Islamist hardliners and alleged plots to overthrow President Joko Widodo, who is popularly known as Jokowi.
The Jakarta election is viewed as a larger choice ahead of a 2019 presidential poll between the secular policies Indonesia has practiced since its post-World War Two independence and a hardline political Islam that has strengthened in recent years.
“This is a test case for Indonesian pluralism, if it can withstand the pressure of the religious groups, the populists,” said Wimar Witoelar, a political analyst and an adviser to former Indonesian president Abdurrahman Wahid.
“Indonesia is at a crossroads, and I mean Indonesia, not just Jakarta.”
A survey conducted Apr 12-14 by polling firm Indikator showed Anies with 48.2 per cent support versus 47.4 per cent for Purnama, with 4.4 per cent undecided.
Purnama, who replaced Widodo in 2014 as Jakarta governor after serving as his deputy, saw his popularity soar as he tackled decrepit infrastructure, chronic flooding and endemic corruption in the traffic-clogged city of over 10 million.
His support plunged after an edited video circulated last September suggesting Purnama had mocked a verse in the Koran used by his opponents to argue Muslims should not vote for a person holding different religious beliefs.
Amid two rallies last year that drew hundreds of thousands of protesters, Purnama was charged with blasphemy, forcing him to make regular appearances in court during the campaign.
The hardline Islamists behind the rallies – led by the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI), a group known for attacks on religious minorities and extorting money from nightclubs – were cultivated by Purnama’s rivals. Baswedan was accused of betraying his moderate Islamic roots when he met and sang with FPI leader Habib Rizieq, who was twice imprisoned for inciting violence in 2003 and 2008.
Purnama recovered to win the first round on Feb 15 with 43 per cent of the vote, compared to 40 per cent for Baswedan and 17 per cent for Agus Yudhoyono, son of former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who drew support from conservative Muslims.