Voters in Indonesian Capital Choose Governor

Bruno Cirelli
Aprile 20, 2017

The run-off placed Jakarta Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, a Christian and ethnic-Chinese leader nicknamed "Ahok", against Baswedan, a Muslim politician with a background in academia, in an electoral process which has stoked religious tensions in the nation's capital.

"His campaign team is reaching out to Muslim communities and the Islamic political parties", said Dr Greg Fealy, an expert on Indonesian affairs at Australian National University.

"Any mobilisation of masses that is aimed at physical or psychological intimidation, especially at polling stations, is prohibited", the city police said in a joint statement with the elections commission.

"There is no other choice for me but to vote for a candidate who has the same religion as me", said Ms Andi, a Muslim.

Keith Loveard, an analyst at Jakarta-based Concord Consulting, said it will be "a potent force".

The race has been complicated by a blasphemy case filed against Ahok over comments he made last September on the Quran that were deemed insulting to Islam in what is regularly described as the world's most populous predominantly Muslim country.

The 47-year-old Baswedan supported President Joko Widodo's agenda, accelerating economic growth with higher assistance for small and medium business.

Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama (known as Ahok) is a straight-talking ex-businessman who has won the admiration of many Jakartans for making progress on infrastructure development and cleaning up the city's bureaucracy.

Opinion polls and voter surveys just days ago had shown that Basuki was trailing his rival by less than one percentage point - a hair's breath in any political election.

Baswedan, who is supported by the opposition Gerindra Party and Prosperous Justice Party, called on voters to forget the differences of the campaign, which has seen Purnama put on trial over blasphemy allegations.

More than 13,000 polling places were open Wednesday for Jakarta's 7.1 million eligible voters.

"The police should remain proportional [in deploying officers] and not make the security too conspicuous, so that people will feel comfortable when they vote", Dahliah said.

"We recorded that there are more than 1,900 alleged-hoax reports in recent three months", said Khairul Ashar, a co-founder of Turn Back Hoax - a crowd-sourced digital initiative where they collected and debunked hoaxes spreading in social media.

Many of those who filled the streets of Jakarta to protest against him late previous year were among the displaced, and violence broke out in Luar Batang after one of those demonstrations. Millions of Indonesians in the capital Jakarta are elect. Blasphemy is a criminal offense in Indonesia and punishable by up to five years in prison.

The loser, however, can contest the results in Constitutional Court, which could prolong political uncertainty for weeks. His trial will resume on Thursday, when prosecutors will submit a sentence request.

"As long as there are no security issues, the election outcome should not significantly stall the reform program of the national government, in our view", Citigroup said in a note.

Citigroup said in an investor note that, despite the potential for renewed protests if Purnama won, it was maintaining a Jakarta stock index target of 6,150 by the end of 2017, up from around 5,600 now.

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