Election for Jakarta governor to be 3-way fight

Surprise entry of Yudhoyono's son may split votes for opposition candidates

Jakarta's gubernatorial election next February is set to be a three-way fight, with two of the contenders from minority ethnic groups.

The incumbents, governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama and deputy governor Djarot Saiful Hidayat from the ruling coalition, will face the joint ticket of former education minister Anies Baswedan and businessman Sandiaga Uno, as well as a surprise entry from the Democratic Party, which is fielding Agus Harimurti Yudhoyono - the son of former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono - and veteran bureaucrat Sylviana Murni as his running mate.

Mr Basuki, popularly known as Ahok, is of Chinese descent and Christian, while Mr Anies is of Arab lineage.

Political analysts including Mr Dodi Ambardi say that the Agus-Sylviana ticket runs the risk of diluting anti-Ahok votes instead of consolidating support for the opposition against the incumbents.

"Even though Agus' electoral chance to win the election is slim, it can dilute the anti-Ahok votes to some degree. Ahok will remain the leader in the race as long as the anti-Ahok group is fragmented," Mr Dodi told The Straits Times. He pointed out that the anti-Ahok group was unable to unite and agree on a single pair of candidates.


Mr Hasan Nasbi, founder of political consultancy firm Cyrus Network, who has been advising Mr Basuki, sees Mr Agus' nomination as former president Yudhoyono's move to groom a heir to his political dynasty.

"Participating in the Jakarta gubernatorial election is a prestigious endeavour that gets you the national limelight. Clearly, this is the objective. As a newcomer, losing out after, say, garnering 10 per cent of the vote would earn him the good reputation needed for his long-term political career," Mr Hasan told The Straits Times.

Mr Agus is the son of former president Susilo Yudhoyono. His nomination may be a move to groom him for a political career.

"Agus-Sylviana pair would be a strong alternative for the capital. They respect the rights of the Jakartans and are close to the people," Mr Didik Mukrianto, a member of the Democratic Party central executive board, was quoted as saying by state news agency Antara.

The gubernatorial election in Jakarta on Feb 15 next year will be held as part of simultaneous elections for the heads of seven provinces, 76 regencies and 18 cities across Indonesia, the majority of whose population is made up of moderate Muslims and ethnic Javanese. The country has 34 provinces and more than 500 cities and regencies.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 24, 2016, with the headline 'Election for Jakarta governor to be 3-way fight'. Print Edition | Subscribe