Bigotry Matters
Category: Column By : Taufik Darusman Read : 242 Date : Friday, April 07, 2017 - 13:33:50

In the second round of the gubernatorial race, on April 19, Jakartans will decide whether they want five more years with incumbent Basuki Tjahaja Purnama or have rival Anies Baswedan at the helm of the capital. Two months earlier, in a three-way first round race, Jakartans made clear they were not ready to see Agus Yudhoyono, the eldest son of former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, run the city. The 39-year-old former Army major garnered only 17% of the votes, leaving Purnama (51) and Anies (48) with, respectively, 43% and 40%, to enter the second round as neither had won over 50%, as required by law.

In fact, as the first round figures show, Jakartans had already made their decision: 57% (the combined votes of Agus and Anies) wish to see a new governor. Several polls had Basuki, a Catholic of Chinese descent, leading by 75% until he was accused, in September, of insulting the Koran. He was subsequently brought to court by Muslim firebrands, thanks to an edict by the Council of Muslim Scholars (MUI) that found him guilty of committing blasphemy.

As what is arguably the nation’s second most important election draws to a close, it has become not so much a portrait of a major political event than a snapshot of Jakartans’ psyche. The Media Survei Indonesia (Median) rightly put it when it described Jakarta voters as “idiosyncratic.” A survey conducted by the pollster, in the last week of February, showed that while 54% believed Basuki is the right person to govern Jakarta—as opposed to 33% in Anies’ favor—and that over 65% were satisfied with the way he was running the city, only 42% want to see him reelected.

Jakarta is home to the country’s more sophisticated and upscale society—50% of the voters are Internet users and 62% are fully employed, according to the University of Indonesia. But when it comes to choosing a governor, as the Median survey showed, over 46% prefer Anies, a Muslim with an Arabic pedigree, because of religious consideration. Again, Jakartans are better educated and seemingly more cosmopolitan than their fellow compatriots throughout the archipelago. Yet bigotry trumps tolerance, as most subscribe to the false notion that Muslims must not be led by a non-Muslim.

A large portion of Agus’ supporters are likely to throw their weight behind Anies as they share many commonalities with his supporters, one of which is the desire not to see a non-Muslim governor, according to Lingkaran Survei Indonesia (LSI). In the first week of March, the pollster had Anies leading with 50% against Basuki’s 40% while 10% remain undecided. With LSI’s figures as an index, Anies needs only a little over 0.3%, or about 24,000 votes, to clinch the election.

The upside to Jakartans’ irrational voting behavior, however, is their zeal to take part in deciding the future of the city. The regional election body KPUD noted that nearly 76% of 7.1 million eligible voters cast their votes, a high turnover by any measure. Kudos are also due to Jakartans for the absence of any meaningful disturbances in over 15,000 polling stations.

Behind a façade of modernity, many Jakartans seem to harbor primordial sentiments ways that do not do justice to a society that aspires to enter the next level. In the likelihood that Anies wins on April 19, it will be the first time that post-Independence Jakarta gets a governor it does not deserve.    

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