Ahok, Anies show unity after contest

Jakarta Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama at his trial yesterday. Prosecutors said that while he should be found guilty of insulting Islam, his actions did not warrant prison time, and they recommended a two-year probation in lieu of a suspended one-ye
Jakarta Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama at his trial yesterday. Prosecutors said that while he should be found guilty of insulting Islam, his actions did not warrant prison time, and they recommended a two-year probation in lieu of a suspended one-year jail sentence.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

Outgoing Jakarta governor and successor pledge smooth transition

Jakarta Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama played host to his victorious rival Anies Baswedan at City Hall yesterday, although the sting of defeat at Wednesday's polls was undoubtedly still fresh in his mind.

The visit, initiated by Basuki shortly after interim results showed he had lost to Mr Anies at the polls, was made in preparation for the imminent handover of his administration come October.

In a sign of reconciliation after a political contest fraught with racial and religious tensions, the two opposing candidates agreed yesterday to cooperate and ensure a smooth transition of government. Official results of the gubernatorial election would be announced only on May 1.

Basuki, better known by his nickname Ahok, told reporters yesterday that he runs an "open data system" and welcomes Mr Anies and his team to "sit together and make plans" with regard to the capital's budget for next year.

"We have to start early so when Anies comes in, he can start working to deliver his (campaign) promises," he added.

 

ENSURING SMOOTH HANDOVER

If there are no talks, the plans of the new governor can be implemented only in 2019. That is why we have agreed that my team tasked with translating my campaign promises into work programmes will meet with Ahok's team that is drafting the 2018 budget.

MR ANIES BASWEDAN, welcoming talks with the outgoing team under current Jakarta Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama. Mr Anies will take over the job in October.

The outgoing governor also promised to do his best to complete some of his administration's initiatives before he leaves office in six months. These include plans relating to next year's Asian Games, which Jakarta is partly hosting, and a light rail transit project in the city.

Mr Anies, who was Indonesia's culture and education minister until he was dropped by President Joko Widodo in July last year, welcomed the meetings with the outgoing team.

"If there are no talks, the plans of the new governor can be implemented only in 2019," said Mr Anies.

"That is why we have agreed that my team tasked with translating my campaign promises into work programmes will meet with Ahok's team that is drafting the 2018 budget."

The meeting came just hours before Basuki was due back in court, as the blasphemy trial against him resumed yesterday morning.

Prosecutors told the court that while Basuki should be found guilty of insulting Islam, his actions did not warrant any prison time, and they recommended a two-year probation in lieu of a suspended one-year jail sentence for the Chinese politician.

Basuki's supporters, still recovering from the shock of his defeat, wondered whether there would have been a difference in the polls if the prosecution had not postponed its submission from last week.

Many experts have said that the result of the quick counts from Wednesday's election signals the return of the country's old political elite and entrenched interest groups that used to wield the power in Jakarta.

That Mr Anies successfully won the election by playing the religion card also reaffirmed the growing influence of Islam in Indonesian politics, added others.

Dr Philips Vermonte, executive director of the Jakarta-based Centre for Strategic and International Studies, highlighted that Basuki was not able to grow his support base from the first round of the polls on Feb 15, when he led with 43 per cent of the votes. Quick-count results during Wednesday's run-off showed that he secured roughly the same vote share.

"This means the base of Ahok's constituency has not been expanding," Dr Vermonte said, adding that Basuki's campaign team was also slow to engage prospective voters of other "ideological persuasions".

"So while Anies' cozying up to many conservative Muslim groups is worrisome, Ahok's laser focus on this issue ironically turned off some moderates," he added.

"With such a wide margin in the results of the quick counts, Anies has a clear mandate from the voters to govern Jakarta for the next five years. The ball is now in Anies' court."

SEE OPINION: Key turn in the road for Indonesia

 

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 21, 2017, with the headline 'Ahok, Anies show unity after contest'. Print Edition | Subscribe