Monday, April 24, 2017

The election of Anies Baswedan as Governor of Jakarta needs to interpreted very carefully.

By Richard Woolcott

The election of Anies Basweden, a former Minister for Education and Culture, as Mayor-Governor of Jakarta, with a very substantial majority, needs to be carefully interpretated.

We should acknowledge that it was always improbable that the acting Mayor, 'Ahok', following Jokowi's election as President,would be elected to the position in which he is acting; even with Jokowi's support.

 Is it really reasonable to expect that an ethnic Chinese Christian, a member  of a minority, also before the court on an undecided blasphemy charge, could be elected to be the Mayor of the capital city of the country with the largest Muslim population in the world - even if he had developed a reputation for efficiency ?

 While there will be an understandable tendency in Australia (and the West ) to consider extremist Islam has been greatly strengthened, I do not think the election result can be seen as a manifestation of an upsurge of Islamic extremism (in Indonesia) at this stage.

Many moderate Muslims would have voted for Basweden simply because they would more easily identify with him, as an Indonesian Muslim.

 It is true that President Jokowi's popularity has had a minor setback .He would have expected that, but he considered it necessary to press in public for a wide community approach to the election. The extremist Islamic Defenders Front ( FDI )'s influence is actually quite limited. Basweden does not welcome its extremist views and since his election he has been calling for a community approach.

 Only time will tell the extent to which Islamic extremism may grow in the Indonesia of 2017.

Richard Woolcott AC  is a former Secretary of The Department of Foreign Affairs and has held numerous ambassadorial positions including Ambassador to Indonesia from 1975-1978.


  1. I think this is pretty spot on. While it's a shame Ahok didn't get a go, it's not surprising Anies was elected. It's would be a massive surprise if say the Australian cabinet was 70% females, or even if a Chinese premier was elected!

    Plus until the FPI and other extremists got involved, Anies was widely regarded as a moderate. If he gets down to business, enabling business and building infrastructure, he won't have time to worry about pressure to slip through sharia bylaws and those sorts of socio-religious distractions.

    Lauren. NSW

  2. Richard Woolcott's piece is interesting, but I must say - as a person who lives in Jakarta - that the hardline 'gangsters' intimidated police into charging Ahok with blasphemy so it's a bit hard for Richard to say that Ahok 'lost support' because he was facing charges. Trumped up charges by people who want to see religious hardening take place in Indonesia. The process is underway, and Professor Tim Lindsey got it pretty right in my view.

    Rod. Jakarta

  3. We can accurately interpret this as being a win for the elitist in Indonesia. One has only to follow the money trail to always arrive at the correct result in Indonesia, 95% of the times. Ahok was in for a chance until he arrogantly made a silly comment which he ought have known would have been his down fall. From that point forward, the door was wide open for the elitist to manipulate the less educated in JKT and elsewhere. We all know it is money politics, and we all know the man with the horse, together with his related parties, is behind it all. It is not a good move for JKT, but then again, more Indonesians seem to want to be led by the nose, and not think for themselves, sorry to say. The elitist know it is so easy to play the religious card and the pious followers will fall into any bent line. All to easy for them.

  4. For me, the best statement of Pak Dubes Woolcott is:

    ... While there will be an understandable tendency in Australia ( and the West ) to consider extremist Islam has been greatly strengthened,I do not think the election result can be seen as a manifestation of an upsurge of Islamic extremism at this stage...

    I share his view on it.

    Probably Pak Dubes Woolcott is one of the very view Australians who could see the social-political dynamics in Indonesia in a balanced, inclusive and wide-angel perspective. I wish I could hear more of his knowledgable analysis on the current political issues in Indonesia.


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