Former governor of Jakarta, Basuki 'Ahok' Tjahaja Purnama. (Antara Photo//Nyoman Hendra Wibowo)

My Political Career Is Over: Ahok

JULY 22, 2019

Jakarta. Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama, the former governor of Jakarta, said on Monday he saw no future in his political career, ending speculation of his return to the political scene after serving a prison sentence for blasphemy

"The majority of religious people have labeled me a blasphemer, the middle-class people, especially the housewives are angry with me because of my divorce and my [new] marriage. So, yes, [my political career is] finished," Ahok said, as quoted by Kompas news site. 

Ahok was a frontrunner in the 2017 Jakarta gubernatorial election but his impromptu comment on politicians quoting verses from the Quran to curry support opened the floodgates for a religiously charged campaign that ultimately handed a landslide win to current governor Anies Baswedan.  

Ahok was soon trialed on a blasphemy charge, found guilty and handed a two-year jail sentence. He ended up serving 18 months.

Troubles in his marriage surfaced during his imprisonment, leading to a widely publicized divorce from Veronica Tan, his wife of 21 years.

Ahok was out in January, just months before the presidential election, but kept away from the political and media limelight and instead opted to spend quiet times away with his new wife, Puput Nastiti Devi.

The blasphemy charge on him carried a maximum five-year jail sentence which, according to the law, excluded the former governor from holding any ministerial position in the future. 

Former justice minister Mahfud M.D. said Ahok can still run for regional office as long as he openly declares his previous jail sentence during the campaign.

According to political consultant company Indonesian Survey Circle, Ahok may stand a chance running for president in 2024. His likely rivals will be Ridwan Kamil, the current governor of West Java; his successor as Jakarta governor, Anies; and the governor of Central Java, Ganjar Pranowo.

In another sign that Ahok may still have some political clout, the Roosseno Oktroi Bureau, a foundation set up in honor of Indonesian scientist Roosseno Soerjohadikoesoemo, granted Ahok the Roosseno Award on Monday for his work ethic and integrity that have inspired many other public officials in Indonesia. 

But Ahok said today's political sentiments are working against him.

"I can't be a minister. I'm already crippled [politically]. I'm not being pessimistic, that's just the plain fact," Ahok said on the sideline of the award ceremony.  

Ahok said he did not want anyone in public office today to feel that he is after their position.

The former Jakarta governor said he still wanted to help people in his own way, including by being a host on a television talk show.