Saturday, 21 July, 2018

Religion and politics mix as Jakarta votes

Religion and politics mix as Jakarta votes Religion and politics mix as Jakarta votes
Melinda Barton | 20 April, 2017, 05:46

Millions of Indonesians in the capital Jakarta are electing a governor Wednesday after a polarizing campaign that undermined the country's reputation for practicing a tolerant form of Islam.

Although the last round of polls had the candidates in a statistical dead heat, with each showing the percentage of votes split between the incumbents, Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama and Vice Governor Djarot Saiful Hidayat, and their rivals, Anies Baswedan and Sandiaga Uno, within the margin of error, the majority of polls still gave Anies-Sandiaga at least a superficial lead.

The verse had been used by his opponents in the world's most-populous Muslim country to argue that Muslims should not vote for a non-Muslim leader.

The chairman of Indonesia's biggest muslim organization Nahdlatul Ulama said on Tuesday (18/04) that voters in the Jakarta gubernatorial election should forget about the governor candidates' ethnic background when deciding who to vote.

Hundreds of thousands of Muslims took to the streets late previous year to call for his sacking and to urge voters against electing a non-Muslim leader.

So called "quick counts" by 10 research companies show former Cabinet minister Anies Baswedan winning between 55 and 60 percent of votes with more than half of ballots counted. Ahok, a Christian of Chinese descent, met fierce opposition as seeks to be selected new Jakarta governor.

Meanwhile, Anies said that the first thing he would do once he was installed in office was to make sure that Jakarta's residents' unity and solidarity would be maintained. Over the past couple of months there have been many banners (often removed by authorities) across Jakarta, especially at mosques, stating "a true Muslim is not allowed to vote for a non-Muslim leader".

Official results won't be known for about two weeks but a number of quick counts will begin after voting closes at 1 p.m. local time.

In this case, the resulting polarisation from the bitterly fought pre-election battle is not only dividing the city into Muslims and non-Muslims, but also hardline Muslims who paint Ahok as a "blasphemer of religion" on the one hand and the moderates who support him on the other.

The election is viewed as a test for Indonesia's young democracy and record of religious tolerance, with both sides raising concerns about intimidation and voter fraud.

Baswedan is backed by conservative Muslims who want incumbent Purnama jailed for a perceived insult to Islam that dogged his campaign.

This has been one of Indonesia's most polarising elections, plagued with street protests and attempted coups against the central government, as well as Basuki standing trial for blasphemy after he was charged for insulting Islam last September.

Ahok was fiercely targeted during the campaign by hard-line Muslim groups, who supported Baswedan.

Ahok's defeat is a setback for his political patron, President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo.

"Hopefully after today, the politics in Indonesia will calm again", she said. Prosecutors are scheduled to read out their sentencing demands in court on Thursday. Once considered the clear frontrunner, he won the first round of the election in February with only 43% of the vote, while Mr Baswedan had 40%.