Jakarta election set for run-off

Anies Baswedan (centre) in his previous role of education minister. Source: Flickr

Jakarta has voted for a new governor in an election overshadowed by the ethnic Chinese, Christian incumbent’s blasphemy trial with the election race looking set to go to a second round after no candidate secured 50 per cent of the votes.

Former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s son conceded defeat after quick counts suggested he was trailing, according to the Jakarta Post.

Agus Harimurti Yudhoyono dropped out after going behind ex-education minister Anies Baswedan and incumbent Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, commonly known as “Ahok”.

Ahok is running for re-election despite facing prosecution for insulting Islam, after he accused his opponents of using the Koran to mislead voters.

Exit polls suggested Ahok held a narrow lead, ahead of Anies, but below the 50-per-cent margin needed to avoid a run-off vote in April.

The gubernatorial result is due at the end of the month.

Indonesia is also holding elections for the leaders of seven provinces, 18 cities and 76 districts chiefs. About 85 per cent of the archipelago’s population are Muslim, but six religions are recognised.

Ahok was deputy governor until 2014 when the previous governor Joko Widodo became president.

He was seen as the favourite after having relative success in the post until he was charged with blasphemy late last year, a criminal offence in the archipelago.

Ahok told voters in pre-campaigning that they should not to be fooled by religious figures who told them Muslims should not be governed by a non-Muslim.

During his trial in late December, Ahok said his comments were aimed at politicians “incorrectly” using the Koran against him.

Anies has been accused of campaigning on race and religion.

After the polls closed Anies said: “We believe that everything is decided by Allah, and we will now pray. And we trust in God that we will give Jakarta a just and great leader.”

Voter Lip Purwantara said many people had told him vote for a Muslim but he was not persuaded.

“I am a devout Muslim but I don’t care about the religion of our leaders. I am voting for someone who can make our city greener, cleaner and better place to live,” he told the BBC.

Despite the trial, Ahok remains popular for boosting access to education and health care, pioneering improvements to public transport, tackling corruption and turning a large red-light district into a park.