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Politics

Jakarta gubernatorial vote set for April runoff

Early projections show incumbent Ahok, former education minister in tight race

JAKARTA -- Early projections for the first round of the Jakarta gubernatorial election on Wednesday show incumbent Basuki Tjahaja Purnama with a slight lead over former Education Minister Anies Baswedan. But with neither likely to win an outright majority, a runoff election in April looks certain.

Agus Harimurti Yudhoyono, son of former President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, appears unlikely to make the runoff.

Most unofficial "quick count" projections by private institutions, which are based on samples from polling stations, showed Purnama with around 43% of the votes and Baswedan with about 40%. Yudhoyono has less than 20%. The official results of the first round of voting will be announced in mid-March.

Voters went to polling stations Wednesday to choose a governor for the Indonesian capital for the next five years. Elections for governors and mayors were held the same day in 100 other regions of the country, but the Jakarta election is considered the most important, serving as a trial run for the next presidential election to be held in 2019. Joko Widodo was governor of Jakarta before winning the 2014 presidential election.

Gov. Purnama, better known as Ahok, is an ethnic-Chinese Christian. His popularity sank in November and December after he was accused of insulting the Quran. That drew hundreds of thousands of Muslims onto the streets in predominantly Muslim Jakarta, with demonstrators calling for his arrest. But his strong performance in three live debates over the past month appears to have boosted his standing with voters.

"This fight is not over yet, but we're grateful that we lead in polls. ... Three months ago, some pollsters said we would finish in third place," Purnama said Wednesday afternoon. "We're grateful that [people recognize] what we've done, and we're seen as able to create social justice for all residents of Jakarta."

Baswedan, a former cabinet member in Widodo's government, went into the race as a dark horse, but closed the gap with Ahok after gaining support from conservative Muslim groups. "This proves that the people trust us," Mardani Ali Sera, head of Baswedan's campaign team, told a news conference at the campaign's headquarters. "In December we were at the bottom of most polls. But we had a strategy, after which we led."

Some analysts have called that strategy an "Islamist mobilization." Baswedan, who was previously seen as a progressive Muslim figure, has recently moved toward the Islamists. In early January he visited the headquarters of the hard-line group the Islamic Defenders Front, or FPI, and has used a great deal of religious rhetoric in his campaign. Baswedan is formally backed by the Islamist Prosperous Justice Party and national opposition leader Prabowo Subianto.

Yudhoyono, meanwhile, had led in opinion polls in December following two massive FPI-led rallies. But he performed poorly in the debates, which probably cost him votes analysts said.

His father, the former president, has alleged dirty tricks against the younger Yudhoyono after Widodo recently granted clemency to Antasari Azhar, a former anti-graft agency chief who was convicted of ordering the murder of a pharmaceutical company executive. Azhar on Tuesday said President Yudhoyono framed him after he refused to halt an investigation of a relative.

"I suspect that this was planned -- that Antasari launched his slanderous and cruel accusations against me one day before the Jakarta election," the former president said. "The goal was to ensure that [Agus] will be defeated."

Widodo, meanwhile, called for unity following the heated Jakarta election. "Don't let political differences divide us. After this, let's be brothers again. Let's stay united."

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