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Jakarta governor changes polls pitch

Publication Date : 23-07-2012


Incumbent Jakarta governor Fauzi Bowo is dropping the ethnic card in his re-election bid, after polls show it had apparently hurt, instead of helped, him with the city's maturing voters.

He and his running mate, former general Nachrowi Ramli, had tried capitalising on the fact that they are both Betawi - the Malay ethnic group unique to Jakarta.

They came in a surprising second to out-of-towner Joko Widodo in first-round voting on July 11. Official poll results announced last Thursday showed that Joko received 42.6 per cent of the vote, while Fauzi was behind with 34 per cent.

Surveys prior to that polling had consistently listed Fauzi as the top pick, with Joko - fondly known as Jokowi - closely trailing him.

Both will now face off in the second round on September 20 because no candidate in the earlier six-way race got more than 50per cent of the vote needed to head the Jakarta administration.

"Anyone may lead Jakarta so long as he can lift prosperity of the Jakartans," Fauzi's campaign manager, Kahfi Siregar, said in a clear change of stance in his camp's campaign strategies.

Fauzi had raised ethnic issues often during his campaign rallies, sometimes even using derogatory words to describe Joko, who is from Central Java.

"Vote for those who know Jakarta. We should not let outsiders make a mess in this city. Let Jakarta be managed by the Jakartans," he said at a campaign rally prior to the July poll.

The election results revealed that approach had backfired.

Jakarta resident Wahyu Aly, who expressed his disappointment on the popular online forum Kompasiana, called Fauzi's style of campaigning arrogant and unethical. "Betawi people love peace and see Indonesians of other ethnic groups as fellow countrymen," he wrote. "This should not be spoilt by Mr Fauzi Bowo."

Kahfi said Fauzi's campaign will now focus on his achievements, which range from completing a long-delayed canal that has helped to reduce flooding, to the start of the MRT project that will help to reduce traffic congestion.

The moustached incumbent is seen as weak in handling Jakarta's notorious graft problem. But it is unclear if anyone else can solve that in the chaotic but dynamic capital choked with traffic, where residents are expected to pay bribes for everything, from driver's licences to birth certificates to building permits.

In past campaigns, Joko, a Solo mayor known for his anti-graft stance and his Chinese running mate, Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, also known as Ahok, said what Fauzi has done to alleviate traffic and flooding problems has not been enough.

The pair, whose campaign has been more focused on spelling out programmes for the city, have promised drastic measures to address flooding and traffic. They have also promised to issue special cards for free basic health care and education for lower-income residents.

Fauzi's camp plans a similar approach. "We will go all out on social media to inform how competent Fauzi Bowo is, and what he has accomplished for the city," Kahfi told The Straits Times. "We will meet the people on the ground, hold breaking of fast gatherings at mosques."


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