Members of the hardline Islamic Defenders' Front, or FPI, gather in Jakarta earlier this year to demand the resignation of then-Jakarta governor, Basuki 'Ahok' Tjahaja Purnama, a Christian of Chinese descent. (Reuters Photo/Beawiharta)

Gubernatorial Campaigns Failed Voters With Focus on Religious, Ethnic Discourse: Academic


APRIL 18, 2017

Jakarta. The Jakarta gubernatorial election should be steeped in a discourse on varied ideas rather than a "conflict of morals," a sociologist said recently, amid heightening religious and ethnic sentiments in the capital.

Concern over such tensions, sparked by blasphemy accusations against incumbent Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama by Muslim hardliners, have reemerged as residents prepare to vote on Wednesday (19/04).

Jakarta State University (UNJ) sociologist Robertus Robet believes highly charged religious and ethnic sentiments are to some extent unavoidable in Indonesian elections, though the dominant role they have played in the gubernatorial race is something new to power politics in the country.

The outsize role of these sentiments is ultimately counterproductive to development in Jakarta, a city of more than 10 million residents who regularly face much more serious issues, including crippling floods and perennial traffic congestion, the researcher said.

"We should keep in mind the core issues most important to Jakarta residents, namely the lack of public infrastructure, widespread poverty, deficient urban planning and harmful environmental practices," Robertus told the Jakarta Globe on Monday.

"With the limited time left before voting day, the candidate pairs should discuss policy proposals for the city's development.

"This conflict of morals being played out before the public has narrowed options for concerned residents

"The social aspirations of Jakarta residents have disappeared recently, suppressed by a much more engrossing discourse on religion and power that have defined the run-up to this election."

The run-up to the Jakarta gubernatorial election has seen mass protests by Muslim hardliners demanding the resignation of Ahok, who is currently on trial for blasphemy related to a speech he made last year warning against the use of the Koran in political campaigns.

Ahok and his running mate, Deputy Governor Djarot Saiful Hidayat, will face off against former education minister Anies Baswedan and businessman Sandiaga Uno, after neither candidate pair managed to secure more than 50 percent of the vote in the first round on Feb. 15.