Jakarta's eulogized Christian Governor: A hero that he wasn't

Jakartans have proved themselves as more open-minded and democratic much before the London, they voted and elected a Christian and ethnic Chinese deputy-governor as the running mate of Joko Widodo, often referred to as Jokowi.

Jakarta's eulogized Christian Governor: A hero that he wasn't

Gilang Adi Nugraha- Indonesia

The election of Sadiq Khan as the new Mayor of London creates a lot of sensation, not least because he is the first Muslim Mayor of the largest city in Europe and the first Muslim to hold mayoral post in a major western city. People cite Londoner’s willingness to choose a foreign-origin Muslim as a ‘fruit’ of western democratic values and globalization success. Overnight, Khan’s story becomes a legend, elevating him into a near hero status. Elsewhere in Indonesia, people get what they perceived as a similar comparison.


Basuki Tjahaja Purnama or famously known as ‘Ahok’, the incumbent governor of Jakarta— the capital of the largest Muslim nation in the world — also come from ethnic and religious minority background. Hail from Bangka’s Chinese community and a Christian, his ascendance to Jakarta governorate seat seen as a hero story, not least because Muslim-majority Jakarta (around 85 % of Jakartans are Muslims) can accept him as their leader. And indeed,

When Jokowi took a temporary leave from his post as Jakarta governor to run for President, Basuki became the acting Governor of Jakarta from 1 June 2014.

Following Jokowi's victory, he succeeded him as governor and was sworn into office on 18 November 2014. Basuki is the second Jakarta governor with Chinese ancestry, and also the second Christian governor of Jakarta.

The mandate he and his running mate Jokowi received was around 53.8 % in the second round, a reasonable majority vote if we look at Indonesian electoral context. He also has a reputation as a political jumper, changing parties from Partai Matahari Bangsa into Partai GOLKAR, then step into GERINDRA and currently, although claiming to be independent, in effect a member of the ruling PDI-Perjuangan.

One is justified to wonder what is his real motivation or ideology. It’s certainly different from Sadiq Khan, who received direct personal mandate whose in second round or preferential votes receives more than 55 % of it and clearly recorded as a lifetime member of Labour Party.

Some time back the opinion polls showed that more than half of Jakartans -majority of whom are Muslims- said they would vote for him. This is mainly because Ahok did bring some improvements, particularly on city cleaning and services at various local government institutions. Yet, now his approval rating has lying low, with all latest polls showed supports toward him stagnated between 30-38 %. What caused this to happen? Ahok’s apparent lack of consistency, even with standard of a politician, also proves as a symptom of his problematic character.

During his governance of Jakarta, he demolished a lot of legitimate neighbourhoods even though when he is claiming to be on the side of poor people. While demolition of illegal neighbourhoods who sprung up on the sides of rivers or railways may be justified, his actions later on proven to be done to make ways for developers to build new malls and apartments, and those apartments had no place for the displaced people, people who actually has legitimate land ownership certificate, paying taxes and has apply to the court for to obtained order of demolition cancelation (they obtained it).

Ahok’s reaction was quite astounding, yelling obscenity words on live TV and interviews and carries out the demolition process. He originally portrayed as a ‘tough-guy, tell it like it is’ man. Many times he recorded as yelling towards innocent women and angrily responds with improper word at slight criticism or questions. Sadiq Khan, son of an immigrant, is tough. but wasn’t and never being a bully.
At first, his rudeness seen as an evidence of independencies, independent from any pressure or covet interest.

He also often bragging about how he is one of few clean people in Jakarta’s governance, a thing that contradicted later when it was founded that he has mismanaged the extension project of local government-owned Sumber Waras Hospital, creating around 200 billion rupiah worth of kerugian Negara (losses incurred by the state) or around 20 million USD.

Even though authorities yet to indict him on that matter, many independent institutions and researchers pointed to his family and conglomerates connection that received ‘advantages’ from the project. Another big project that according to Tempo media and other investigations proves to be blunder for him is Jakarta’s beach reclamation project, an effort to build dozens of islands off Jakarta coast, in similarity with the project in Dubai.

After receiving files from various civil society reports, State Court has decided that the project is against the law and therefore should be halted, and the Court also found Ahok administration as prime side to be held accountable for the mistakes, despite his objection who claimed it is merely continuation of previous administration’s actions. The cases of clashes between local government apparatus and local people also often repeated during this reclamation problem. Had these things happened in London, perhaps Sadiq would already being compared with Vladimir Putin or the Ayatollah Kahmenei.

These problems arise barely one and half year after took the governor office charge, likely contributes to his descends on the people. But one other problem may prove to be his fatal problem, and being nail in the coffin for any comparison between him and Sadiq Khan.

His attitude toward Islam and muslims.

Sadiq Khan is known as a unifying hero, replacing the heyday of Boris Johnson. The case with Ahok is different, to say the least. He, in cooperation with Metropolitan Police Authority, have banned or at least try to obstruct many Muslim celebration in public places from Eid al Qurban who once proposed to only be allowed to performed in 3 locations as opposed to currently performed in hundreds of near-mosque locations throughout Jakarta with the reason of public health (surprisingly, no recorded outbreak of diseases or reported potential virus spreading), banning Islamic congregation group from holding Dzikr congregations in Lapangan Monas –Indonesia’s largest and most symbolic square- citing secularism and security reasons (yet he allowed Easter celebration to be held there), to discourage and try to implement a ban on Eid celebration convoys, citing traffic reason (although he has yet to say anything on New Year celebration convoys, which are more crowded). Last but not least, he call mainstream Qur’anic (Al-Maidah:51) interpretation on non-Muslim leadership as “deceiving” .

This would later on described by Indonesian Council of Ulema as “an insult against Islam and Ulema”. Even Chinese minority figure such as Jaya Suprana admitted that Ahok have crossed the boundary.

Many Muslims and non Muslims alike think that how a representatives in a majority Muslim metro of the most populous Muslim country can hurt the feeling of the electorates. They now compare their Christian governor to London’s first Muslim mayor and how respectful he is for the majority Christian Londoners along with other minority groups.

These tribulations may cost Ahok dearly in his 2017 election bid, since latest trends of opinion polls have shown that only 30-38 % Jakartans willing to vote for him, Most of the people who elected him deputy-governor in last election are in no mood to vote for him again. Ahok will compete against the former education minister Anies Baswedan and surprise late entry Agus Harimurti Yudhoyono, a one-time army major and the son of the former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

Some psephologists believe that half of that figure, or around 15 % of electorates are from ethnic Chinese and religious minorities voting bloc, that seems to continuously see Ahok as their “champion” and still stand solid behind him. Thus He must know that he needs to win back considerable Muslim votes to stay in the electoral fight; if not he might even fail to go through second round, if his support level eventually fell below 30 %. One thing for sure; Ahok, you’re no Sadiq Khan.

Last Mod: 13 Ekim 2016, 16:07
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