Gubernatorial election 2017

PDI-P backs 'Ahok' for Jakarta

Mr Basuki, better known as Ahok, has been Jakarta governor since 2014.
Mr Basuki, better known as Ahok, has been Jakarta governor since 2014.

The ruling Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) will back incumbent Jakarta governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, better known as Ahok, in the 2017 gubernatorial election.

The announcement last night ended months of speculation on who the party, helmed by former president Megawati Sukarnoputri, will endorse for the race to lead Indonesia's capital.

While Mr Basuki was always a front runner in the post, his no-nonsense style in managing the city as well as his bid to run as an independent candidate in the upcoming election had rubbed many in the political elite the wrong way. This included the PDI-P patron who reportedly courted alternatives to Mr Basuki, such as popular Surabaya mayor Tri "Risma" Rismaharini.

Ms Rismaharini, however, declined the party's advances, choosing instead to remain in Surabaya. But her decision failed to quell rumours that she may be fielded as the PDI-P's preferred candidate, although many analysts still believed Mr Basuki would get Ms Megawati's nod.

Mr Basuki will have deputy governor Djarot Saiful Hidayat, a member of the PDI-P, as his running mate and they will be up against businessman Sandiaga Uno of the Great Indonesia Movement Party (Gerindra).

The PDI-P central executive board made the decision to support Mr Basuki after a meeting in Jakarta to discuss the 2017 regional elections yesterday. With the announcement, the PDI-P now joins Golkar, the National Democratic Party and the People's Conscience Party, or Hanura, in supporting the Ahok-Djarot ticket.

When Mr Basuki took over from Mr Joko Widodo as governor after the latter was elected president in 2014, he became the first ethnic Chinese to assume the position. The geology graduate from Jakarta's Trisakti University started his career in mining but soon moved to East Belitung, where he was elected regent in 2005 with 37 per cent of the vote in a district that was over 90 per cent Muslim.

In 2006, he made a bid for governor of Bangka Belitung province and lost but came back in 2009 to clinch a seat in Parliament with Golkar. Three years later, he joined Mr Widodo and made a run for Jakarta and won.

It has been said that much of Mr Widodo's success in running the capital - which included relocating squatters and street hawkers to new flats and markets, and getting transport and flood mitigation improvements off the ground - was due to his partnership with Mr Basuki.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 21, 2016, with the headline 'PDI-P backs 'Ahok' for Jakarta'. Print Edition | Subscribe