Monday, April 24, 2017

Last week's Jakarta election highlights challenges for non-Muslims who seek high-office

 By Ross B. Taylor

The results from last week's Governor elections in Jakarta show a strong win for former national education minister Anies Baswedan over the incumbent, ethnic Chinese Christian, Basuki Tjahaja Purnama or 'Ahok' as he is commonly known.

Despite polls showing over 60% of eligible voters in Indonesia's sprawling capital saying 'Ahok' had been a 'very competent and effective' governor, only 40% said they intended to vote for him; and this appears to have been proven an accurate assessment in the election.

Ahok's team ran a poor campaign and when combined with many Indonesian's seeing him as a sombong (arrogant) leader who treated Jakarta's slum dwellers very badly in his attempt to clean-up Jakarta, it was always going to be a difficult election for him to win. But it was the Islamic groups such as the hardline Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) and the Community Islamic Forum (FUI), who mounted a strong pro-Muslim campaign in the lead-up to the voting day, that really swayed public opinion.

As the winner from the election, Baswedan will become the new governor in October of this year and his win will delight Trump supporter and friend Harry Tanoesoedibjo, but Ahok's removal will really delight those who seek to eventually turn Indonesia into a far more conservative nation or indeed an Islamic State.

Baswedan has, despite being a warm and engaging person, struggled as an effective administrator so it will remain to be seen how he will perform as governor. But what really counts as a result of today's vote, is that any Chinese or Christian who aspires to hold high office in the immediate years ahead, will face considerable head winds. 'Islam' will now be a central part of any campaign right up to the next presidential election in 2019.

Democracy has 'spoken' and delivered a verdict; life will go on as it always does in Jakarta, but the outcome is potentially a turning point in Indonesia's post Soeharto history, and for those who seek a transition to a far more Islamic conservative nation that until now has embraced religious pluralism and tolerance as an essential part of its core philosophical values called 'Pancasila'.

April 2017

Ross B. Taylor AM is the president of the WA-based Indonesia Institute (Inc)


  1. I agree Ross. Tim Lindsey was a bit more blunt than you, but essentially this is not a good look for Indonesia. See my comment under Richard Woolcott's article. Rod. Jakarta

  2. I think now we will see Prabowo position himself for the next President of indonesia. Too bad for the hardliner groups from Pak Prabowo :)