Asia Minute: Jakarta’s Dramatic Election

Feb 8, 2017

Basuki Tjahaja Purnama
Credit Wikimedia Commons

The future of President Trump’s travel ban from seven predominantly Muslim countries remains under judicial review (this morning/this afternoon). But the country with the largest Muslim population in the world has another focus. Elections are coming—next week. HPR’s Bill Dorman has more in today’s Asia Minute.


Indonesians in about a quarter of the country’s provinces will go to the polls a week from today voting for governors and mayors.

Not for president, Joko Widodo won’t face re-election until 2019.

But a critical contest is underway right now: the race for the governorship of Jakarta.  Indonesia’s capital is a province by itself, and was a political stepping stone for President Widodo—who was serving as Jakarta’s governor when he won the country’s top leadership position.

Widodo’s former deputy, Basuki Tjahaja Purnama took over the job and is the current governor.  More commonly known by his nickname “Ahok, he’s up for re-election—facing two major rivals and a court battle.

Ahok is ethnically Chinese—a first for the governor of Jakarta.

He’s also a Christian, and being tried for blasphemy—insulting the Koran—in a case many call politically motivated.

Tens of thousands of Muslims have protested against Ahok in recent months at several points jamming streets in Jakarta.

Indonesia has a tradition and history of a moderate interpretation of Islam, and some observers have called this race a test of religious tolerance.

Despite the controversy, according to the latest polls, Ahok is still the front runner.