2017 Jakarta elections: A historic moment

Today is a historic moment in Jakarta’s democratic history. Millions of people today take to 13,000 polling booths around the city to vote for the next governor of Jakarta. What may appear to be a standard democratic procedure, is a historic moment for Jakarta. A lot is weighing on the outcome. The governor to be can also run for candidacy in the 2019 presidential election. But that’s not the only factor weighing on the poll counts. Many argue that the election is a litmus test for an increasingly intolerant sentiment in Indonesia.

Gubernatorial candidate, Agus Harimurti Yudhoyono, campaigning in Jakarta on the 31st January, 2017.

A blasphemy trial involving Jakarta’s governor, Ahok, has stirred up a lot of anti-Western sentiment in the young democracy, taking the shape of weekly protests both for an against the candidate. The governor is running for a second term, but much opposition has arisen to his campaign because of his Chinese ethnicity and support of Christianity. Radical Islamist groups, such as the ‘FPI’ have protested against his liberal policies, while other pro-Ahok groups have embraced them. Last December, 500,000 conservative Muslims rallied in favour of his jailing.

It’s not just tolerance on the test. There are 384,300 Jakartans considered to be poor. With the poverty index increasing in Jakarta, many are counting on election campaign promises to restore their livelihood and even out the divide between rich and poor. Gubernatorial candidate, Agus has made a key point of his campaign promising not to relocate the poor from the slum areas. Instead, he has promised to rebuild people’s homes, and to create floating infrastructure in slum areas at risk of flooding.

With so much weighing on the outcome, and much separatism in the community, the outcome will change the shape of Jakarta — for better, or worse.