Asia Minute: Jakarta Election Update: National Implications

Feb 17, 2017

Basuki Tjahaja Purnama
Credit Simple Wikipedia

This was an election week in many parts of Indonesia.  Races were held for governor and mayor in about a quarter of the country’s provinces, but most of the attention was focused on the national capital. HPR’s Bill Dorman has details in today’s Asia Minute.


The race to become Jakarta’s next governor is a tight one and chances are good it’s not over yet.

A candidate needs to carry more than half the votes to win. And while the official results of this week’s election won’t be out for a couple of weeks, early indications point to a run-off between the top two contenders.

One reason the race gets so much attention is the position has been a step on the way to the Indonesian presidency. Incumbent Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama took over the job from Indonesia’s current president—Joko Widodo, in 2014.

The current governor is unusual in a couple of respects.  He’s the first ethnic Chinese to be governor of Jakarta, and the first Christian to hold the office in about 50 years in the capital of the world’s most populous Muslim nation.  He’s also on trial for blasphemy, in what his supporters say is a case motivated by politics, not faith.  

While campaigning last year, he referred to a verse in the Koran saying it was wrong for religious leaders to use it as a suggestion that Muslims should not be governed by non-Muslims.

The incident has provoked anger and demonstrations by conservative Muslims. In a country that has a history of a moderate interpretation of Islam.

Now he’s likely to face the former education minister, a Muslim, in a runoff election scheduled for the middle of April.