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Published: Thu, April 20, 2017
Global Media | By Abel Hampton

Early results show defeat for Jakarta's Christian governor

Early results show defeat for Jakarta's Christian governor

Former education minister Anies Baswedan beat his rival, incumbent Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, by a huge margin on Wednesday - a surprising result as most opinion polls had previously pointed to a dead heat between the two candidates.

About 7 million people are eligible to vote by 1 p.m. (0600 GMT), when polling stations close.

Ahok won a three-way first-round vote on February 15, securing 43 percent of the votes, while Anies Baswedan came second with 39 per cent.

Edriana Noerdin, a prominent Anies-Sandi supporter, gender adviser to their campaign and head of the Jakarta-based Women Research Institute told Asian Correspondent this week that Anies stands for "pro-people" policies, while Ahok is "pro-developers".

The official result will not be released for a few weeks.

A year ago the popular governor found himself embroiled in a blasphemy trial, after he cited a verse from the Koran, Al Maidah 51, telling voters they should not be deceived by religious leaders who claim Muslims can not vote for Christians.

At mass rallies in March, thousands of Jakartans protested against Ahok, calling for him to be removed from power and jailed.

His rival, 47-yeaer-old Baswedan, said as he voted in the south of the city that the election was "a celebration of democracy", which was being closely watched both at home and overseas and so it was important there should not be an atmosphere of tension.

We believe that the group of hardline Muslims in Indonesia is rather small.

In the lead-up to the election hardline groups have warned Muslims they won't be prayed for upon their death if they vote for a non-Muslim.

"(Islamist groups) are using a lot of very blatant religious messages. After voting, Jokowi called for unity.

"Do not gather the masses, whatever the reason, at the polls", he said.

It is an election divided not just by politics but by religion too and of all things, hoaxes have put a potent edge on these tensions.

Baswedan had been seen as the favourite in the runoff because the votes from a third Muslim candidate who was knocked out were expected to go to him.

The defeat is also a blow for President Joko Widodo, whose party had backed Purnama.

Purnama stepped in as governor from the deputy's position in 2014 when the then-governor Joko Widodo became the president of Indonesia.

A Baswedan win will be seen as a major blow to Jokowi.

Sulistyo Nugraha, a bank employee who voted in west Jakarta, said he was not influenced by Islamic preachers who said voting for a Christian would be a sin.

As an ethnic Chinese and a Christian, Ahok is a "double minority" in a Muslim majority country where the ethnic Chinese have been subject to racism since Dutch colonial times. "Jakarta is home for all of us", Ahok said in a statement.

"He's a very combative, outspoken, reckless kind of character who has achieved a lot for Jakarta, but he's a character who has created a lot of antipathy toward him", he said. Baswedan was accused of betraying his moderate Islamic roots when he met and sang with FPI leader Habib Rizieq, who was twice imprisoned for inciting violence in 2003 and 2008.

"They have very specific material grievances against the governor, they feel there was a betrayal of a political contract".

Airlangga said identity politics has fueled political crises not only in conflict areas like Iraq and Syria, but also in supposedly democratic countries like the United States and other countries in Europe.

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