April 19, 2017 9:40 pm JST

Ex-education chief Baswedan wins Jakarta gubernatorial election

Religious controversy eroded support for incumbent Christian Governor Purnama

WATARU SUZUKI, Nikkei staff writer

Jakarta gubernatorial candidate and former Education Minister Anies Baswedan, left, casts his vote along with family members near his residence in South Jakarta on the morning of April 19. (Photo by Wataru Suzuki)

JAKARTA -- Former Education Minister Anies Baswedan won the runoff election for Jakarta's governor on Wednesday, according to independent pollsters showing a comfortable lead over incumbent Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama.

Purnama, popularly known as Ahok, congratulated Baswedan for his victory and said he will focus on his job during his remaining six months in office. The new governor will serve a five-year term.

Unofficial "quick count" projections -- which are based on samples from polling stations -- by private pollster LSI showed Baswedan with around 56% of the votes and Purnama with 44%, with nearly 100% of the sample votes counted. The election commission will announce the official results in May.

The polarizing campaign saw Baswedan gain support from conservative Muslim groups after remarks by Purnama -- an ethnic-Chinese Christian -- about a verse from the Quran sparked a backlash that led to two massive demonstrations against the governor late last year. Baswedan is backed by the opposition Gerindra Party, led by Prabowo Subianto, who lost to Joko Widodo in the 2014 presidential election.

"We will continue the dream of bringing together unity in Jakarta," Baswedan told reporters at Gerindra's headquarters in Jakarta on Wednesday afternoon. "Today, the campaign phase, the difference, is over."

Subianto offered his congratulations to Baswedan and his running mate, former private equity tycoon Sandiaga Uno, saying, "This is a victory for all the people in Jakarta, a victory for democracy."

Purnama, a former vice governor, was promoted after Widodo became president. Though initially the clear favorite to win the election, his fortunes worsened, and he is currently standing trial due to remarks he made when criticizing people who cited a verse from the Quran to discourage Muslims from voting for him. Prosecutors are scheduled to read out their sentencing demands in court on Thursday.

LSI's executive director, Denny Januar Ali, said the possibility of Purnama being found guilty of blasphemy became a key liability, while Subianto's support boosted Baswedan's prospects.

The election is seen as a bellwether for the 2019 presidential election, mainly because Widodo served as Jakarta's governor before becoming president in 2014.

Purnama and Baswedan faced off after leading the first round of the election in February, in which none of the three candidates were able to gather the majority of the votes required to seal a victory.

Nikkei staff writer Bobby Nugroho contributed to this report.

 

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