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Jakarta votes on governor tomorrow

Publication Date : 19-09-2012


Tomorrow, voters in Indonesia's capital will elect a governor after a heated run-off campaign coloured by appeals to race and religion.

While many residents deplore the methods, others are still swayed by such primaeval sentiments in this cosmopolitan city of 10 million.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono referred obliquely to the issue at a Cabinet meeting yesterday, and appealed to candidates: "The competition is tough and tight, let us ensure that during, before and after the voting, peace in Jakarta is preserved."

Incumbent governor Fauzi Bowo and his running mate, retired general Nachrowi Ramli, both from the Betawi ethnic group indigenous to Jakarta, are pitted against Joko Widodo, the sitting mayor of Solo in Central Java, and his running mate, Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, a Chinese Indonesian former MP.

The stakes are high: Jakarta's annual budget allocation for next year is 41 trillion rupiah (US$4.31 billion), and more than half of the country's wealth circulates here.

Fauzi and Nachrowi are backed by Dr Yudhoyono's Democrat Party and its ruling coalition partners, while Joko is from the Indonesian Democratic Party-Struggle (PDI-P) and Basuki from Gerindra. The outcome could signal a swing to the opposition parties in the 2014 elections.

In the first round of voting on July 11, Joko won 42.6 per cent of the vote in a six-way race, well ahead of Fauzi's 34 per cent. But the race is expected to be closer this time.

Many among the 12 per cent who voted for the Islamist Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) candidate in the first round are expected to root for Fauzi.

To complicate matters, the latest surveys show that up to 20 per cent who voted for either Joko or Fauzi may change their minds, making it hard to predict a sure win for either.

Campaigning officially ended on Sunday, but leaflets and online attacks are still floating around.

Backers of Joko cite his track record in revitalising Solo since becoming mayor in 2005.

Meanwhile, supporters of Fauzi say he needs more time to fix Jakarta's problems like traffic congestion and flooding that have turned voters against him. His decades-long experience in the capital's bureaucracy also make him the best man for the job, they say.

In recent weeks, some of Fauzi's supporters have also told Muslims they should not elect non-Muslims, alluding to the fact Basuki is a Christian.

On his part, Joko went as far as distributing photos of his family on pilgrimage in Mecca to show he is a devout Muslim.

Last month, the government also pulled down a YouTube video showing a masked man with a weapon threatening Chinese residents not to vote, amid footage of anti-Chinese riots in 1998.

Indonesian Survey Institute (LSI) executive director Dodi Ambardi told The Straits Times that protest votes against the incumbent and voting along religious lines could influence the outcome.

He said: "It looks like protest votes are growing for the benefit of Jokowi," he said, referring to Joko's nickname. "And Foke is trying to divert voters' attention by exploiting religious sentiment." Foke is Fauzi's nickname.


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