Anies set to take over as Jakarta governor

The Straits Times/ANN

JAKARTA (The Straits Times/ANN) - Former minister vows to safeguard diversity, unity after bitter contest marred by religious, racial tensions

Former culture and education minister Anies Baswedan and his running mate, businessman Sandiaga Uno, will be heading to City Hall come October, according to quick counts released after the gubernatorial election yesterday.

Data collected by four Indonesian think-tanks indicate that they have secured almost 60 per cent of the vote, while incumbent governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama and his deputy Djarot Saiful Hidayat recorded about 40 per cent.

These quick counts, which project results based on a sample of votes from various polling stations, have been largely accurate in previous elections and were analysed by Jakarta-based think-tanks Populi Centre, Charta Politika, Indo Barometer and Vox Pol Centre.

Although the official results of the election will not be released until next month, these quick counts point to Basuki - better known by his Hakka nickname Ahok - being unable to hold on to the post that he inherited when President Joko Widodo was elected to the higher office in 2014.

Speaking at a news conference, Mr Anies pledged to safeguard diversity and unity after the bitterly fought campaign.

"Our focus is social justice, ending inequality, and our commitment is to safeguard diversity and unity in Jakarta," he said, adding that he would be in touch with his rival.

Mr Anies also pointed out that Jakarta is the most diverse city, in terms of ethnicity and religions, in Indonesia.

In his remarks to the press, Basuki congratulated his rivals.

"We still have six months until the new governor is inaugurated... We will work expeditiously and properly. We hope Anies and Sandiaga will continue with what we started," he said.

"Going forward, we want everyone to forget the tensions during the campaign period and election."

Polls opened to a quiet start early in the day, but more voters started trickling in at polling stations later in the morning and closer to lunchtime.

More than 7.2 million Jakarta residents were registered to vote in this election run-off, held after none of the initial three pairs of candidates managed to secure the majority needed to win at the polls on Feb 15.

The run-up to yesterday's election was marked by religious and racial tensions, prompting a state of heightened security.

As a result, more than 60,000 soldiers and police officers - double the force for the February polls - were deployed at polling centres across the capital, over fears of civil unrest and Islamic hardliners intimidating voters.

Plagued by street protests and attempted coups against the central government, it was one of Indonesia's most polarising elections ever. Basuki was even put on trial for blasphemy after he was charged with insulting Islam last September.

His rivals capitalised on the blasphemy scandal and often played the religion card against him to secure votes. As Basuki is Chinese and Christian, he is a double minority in the world's most populous Muslim-majority nation.

Political watchers such as Associate Professor Leonard Sebastian had said the election would be a test of pluralism and political Islam.

The academic from the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies said: "It is also a litmus test of Indonesia's moderate multi-culturalism versus a hardline Islamism."