Jakarta’s Christian governor was soundly beaten in his re-election bid on Wednesday, after an ugly campaign that exposed the rising influence of Islamism in Indonesia. Reuters:
Anies Baswedan won with 58 percent of the votes versus 42 percent for Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, known by his Chinese nickname as “Ahok”, based on 100 percent of the votes in an unofficial “quick count” by Indikator Politik. […]
The turbulent campaign featured mass rallies led by a hardline Islamist movement, which has strengthened in recent years in a country long dominated by a moderate form of Islam. More than 80 percent of Indonesia’s population professes Islam.
“Going forward, the politics of religion is going to be a potent force,” said Keith Loveard, an analyst at Jakarta-based Concord Consulting and an author of books about Indonesian politics.
At first blush, the outcome of a Jakarta governor’s race may seem insignificant, but Baswedan’s victory points to troubling fissures within the world’s most populous Muslim-majority country. The controversy started last fall, when hardline Islamist groups successfully pressured the police into investigating Purnama, the incumbent Christian governor, for blasphemy. Hardliners kept up the pressure in recent months, with protests sometimes turning violent—a symptom of the rising influence of militant Saudi-inspired Salafism in a country long known for its moderate and syncretistic form of Islam.
Baswedan himself is not an extremist, and he pledged in his victory speech to emphasize a message of “diversity and unity.” But he sailed to his larger-than-expected victory by actively courting and pandering to the conservative Islamist groups that drove the opposition to Purnama. For politicians looking to match his success, that is going to look like a playbook worth emulating.