The week in review: Horse-trading time
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Jakarta is looking forward to a run-off in September as none of the six contenders won 50 percent of the vote in Wednesday’s surprise-filled gubernatorial election.
On the showdown scheduled for Sept. 20, Joko Widodo — better-known as Jokowi — who garnered an estimated 43 percent of the vote, will face off against incumbent rival Fauzi “Foke” Bowo who only managed to reap 34 percent.
Exit polls totally contradicted various surveys that had predicted that Foke, who was paired with the Democratic Party’s Jakarta chief Nachrowi Ramli, would dominate the race, perhaps even with a landslide victory. It was the quick counts conducted by the same pollsters that estimated Foke’s 34 percent result.
An after-shock is of course still possible because the formal result will be officially announced only on July 20. Who knows whether the final official count will reverse the situation and once again prove that pollsters’ findings can be wrong?
The provisional victory of the Jokowi–Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama ticket has also boosted the profiles of its benefactors; the nationalist Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) and the Great Indonesia (Gerindra) Party, which are competing with their rivals for the 2014 presidential election.
At the same time, it deals embarrassing blows to the Golkar Party, which saw its pair Alex Noerdin-Nono Sampono receive a mere 4 percent, and the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) whose Hidayat Nur Wahid–Didik J. Rachbini got 11 percent, according to the same exit polls.
Foke’s defeat has been blamed on the Democratic Party’s lack of solidity in addition to Foke’s rigid, less populist campaign style, despite his relative success during his five-year tenure, especially in handling the acute flooding problem.
The Democratic Party has a commanding 32 seats of the Jakarta Legislative Council’s 94 seats. Its closest rivals, PKS has 18 seats, with the PDI-P 11 and Golkar 7. Apparently, Foke’s poor showing comes at a time when many Democratic Party politicians are embroiled in massive graft cases.
In the other corner, Jokowi enjoys strong media support thanks to his reputation as a populist mayor of Surakarta. He was named the 2011 best mayor by the Home Ministry and winner of the 2010 Bung Hatta anticorruption award. Under his administration, Surakarta has won numerous awards for its good governance, cleanliness and transportation.
Until the Sept. 20 showdown, Jokowi and Foke will be busy fighting for the votes of their beaten rivals and forging coalitions with other parties.
The conviction of Tajul Muluk, a Shiite cleric on the predominantly Sunni Muslim Madura Island, in East Java, for blasphemy is a nightmare come true for the lovers of tolerance in a pluralistic Indonesia where the vocal extremist minority is gaining ground in the face of weak government.
The Sampang District Court in Madura sentenced Tajul to two years in prison for “blasphemy against Islam”, having told his students that the holy Koran now in use is all wrong because the original is yet to come with the Imam Mahdi, and supporting unregistered (siri) marriage.
The court dismissed his defense statement that he was in fact a victim of aggression committed by the mainstream that deems the minority Shia heretic. Tajul had his home and the boarding school he ran burned down in an unprovoked attack in December that also forced hundreds of his followers to flee their homes.
The attack and the prosecution have highlighted increasing religious intolerance as apparent also from the numerous other cases of violence committed in the name of Islam against religious minority groups elsewhere.
The attack laid bare the terrifying fact that some state officials and religious leaders have contributed to the increasing sectarian violence. For example, the conservative Religious Affairs Minister Suryadharma Ali and the Indonesian Ulema Council declared that Shia was heretic and should be banned.
Tajul vowed to appeal his imprisonment.
President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has yet to prove that his recent call for the police and other law enforcement agencies to act against violent vigilantism is not the usual empty rhetoric.
A further example of such rhetoric is the statement made by Constitutional Court chief Mahfud MD when entertaining visiting German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Tuesday that the Indonesian Constitution guarantees the freedom of minorities – and that atheists and communists are no exception.
Mahfud was right about the Constitution, but as everybody knows only too well, the problem is extremely poor law enforcement by the authorities when handling sectarian violence as well as other “ordinary” crimes.
In West Sumatra, a 32-year old man was sentenced to 2.5 years imprisonment last month for proclaiming himself an atheist on Facebook and up to this day we have not heard Mahfud, or any other state bureaucrats, come forward in his defense in the name of Constitution.
The government should do more to protect minority groups before such persecution becomes a pattern.
The graft investigation into the Rp 2.5 trillion (US$265 million) Hambalang sports complex in West Java has remained frustratingly slow. Many people who had expected a major development after the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) questioned 70 witnesses, including Democratic Party chief Anas Urbaningrum and Youth and Sports Minister Andi Mallarangeng, were left disappointed.
In a press briefing, KPK chairman Abraham Samad said on Tuesday only that investigations were ongoing. On Wednesday, however, inside sources leaked information about two persons being named as suspects but refused to reveal their identities. Quoting the unnamed sources, Koran Tempo reported that the two were low-ranking officials with the Youth and Sports Ministry.