Close Jakarta poll heads for run-off

SHOWING SUPPORT: Supporters of Basuki Tjahaja Purnama cheer after hearing his speech during the voting in Jakarta, Indonesia Picture: GETTY IMAGES
SHOWING SUPPORT: Supporters of Basuki Tjahaja Purnama cheer after hearing his speech during the voting in Jakarta, Indonesia
Picture: GETTY IMAGES

The race to become governor of Indonesia’s capital was heading for a second round between the incumbent Christian and a Muslim former education minister after neither appeared to win a majority in an election yesterday.

The Jakarta poll has been overshadowed by religious tensions, with Islamist-led protests against Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, an ethnic Chinese Christian, and calls for voters to choose a Muslim leader for the city.

Analysts say divisions could linger and even deepen as the vote, which is also being widely seen as a proxy battle for the next presidential election, in 2019, appeared to be heading for a second round, according to unofficial sample vote counts.

Purnama is backed by President Joko Widodo’s ruling party.

His main rival, former education minister Anies Baswedan, is backed by a retired general, Prabowo Subianto, who is promising a comeback to the national stage after losing to Widodo in the 2014 presidential vote.

“There would be tension that will be stored until 2019, because of course all this is not really against Purnama, it’s against Widodo. Prabowo is coming in now,” Jakarta-based political analyst Wimar Witoelar said.

Purnama had secured 43.08% of the votes, just ahead of Baswedan on 40.14%, based on a quick sample count of about 95% of the vote by private polling firm SMRC.

The other candidate, Agus Yudhoyono, the son of former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, was in third place with 16.78%. Other pollsters showed similar results.

A candidate needs to get more than 50% of the votes in the first round to win outright.

The earliest a second round will be held is April.

The General Elections Commission is expected to announce official results in about two weeks.

Indonesia has the world’s largest Muslim population, but is officially secular. Overshadowing the campaign has been Purnama’s trial – which began in December – for allegedly insulting the Koran in connection with remarks he made about how people vote.

He denies the charge. – Reuters

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