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Jakarta Post

Ahok tries to win Muslim voters’ hearts

  • Safrin La Batu and Agnes Anya

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Wed, August 3, 2016   /  08:04 am
Ahok tries to win Muslim voters’ hearts Nusron Wahid (JP/-)

As the 2017 gubernatorial election draws near, parties participating in the election are seizing every opportunity to increase their chances of winning, including by trying to lure voters from the Muslim community, which makes up the majority of Jakarta’s population.

Jakarta Governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama, who has secured the backing of three political parties: the Golkar Party, the Hanura Party and the NasDem Party, is looking for good fortune by appointing Nusron Wahid, a politician who comes from the country’s largest Muslim organization, Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), as the head of his campaign team.

Ahok said his appointment of Nusron, a Golkar politician and former chairman of NU’s youth movement GP Ansor, was based on the fact that they were already good friends.

But many will see the choice of Nusron, the current head of the Agency for the Placement and Protection of Indonesian Migrant Workers, as a strategic move to win over Muslim voters.

“With the appointment of Nusron, Ahok actually expects to get votes from the Muslim community,” Paramadina political analyst Hendri Satrio told The Jakarta Post on Tuesday.

“Because [if given to Ahok’s rivals], votes from the Muslim community could become the biggest obstacle for him.”

Although recent surveys suggested that Ahok’s double minority identity — he is a Christian and of Chinese descent — will not likely impact the decision of most of the capital’s voters in choosing a candidate, the governor has been the subject of harsh criticism — including calls for him to step down — from a number of Muslim organizations, not because of his performances but rather because of his background.

According to a survey by Jakarta-based Saiful Mujani Research and Consulting (SMRC), 50 percent of the 646 respondents in an SMRC survey said they disagreed or strongly disagreed with the notion that a non-Muslim could not lead a Muslim community. Meanwhile, 41 percent of the respondents said they agreed or strongly agreed with the notion.

Meanwhile, the Gerindra Party, the main opponent of Ahok, also seeks to win over Muslim voters by, among other things, forming a coalition with the Islamic-based Prosperous Justice Party (PKS).

“The PKS and other political parties will form a coalition against the governor,” PKS Jakarta chairman Syakir Purnomo said last week.

Syakir added that the PKS and Gerindra would soon talk with the National Awakening Party (PKB), a party controlled by NU members, and the Islamic-based United Development Party (PPP), as well as with the Democratic Party and even the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), which controls a majority of seats on the City Council.

On Tuesday, PKB Jakarta chairman Hasbiallah Ilyas said his party and the PPP had agreed to form a coalition of Islamic-based parties, and though there had not yet been any talks on which side the coalition would support, Hasbiallah said they had prepared individuals as potential running mates for either Gerindra’s or the PDI-P’s gubernatorial candidate.

Gerindra, which has nominated businessman Sandiaga Uno for the election, is trying to get the PDI-P to join its camp and has promised that PDI-P would get to choose their joint gubernatorial candidate should it agree, meaning Sandiaga would be relegated to deputy governor candidate.

Meanwhile, the PDI-P and PKB also discussed forming a coalition on Tuesday. PDI-P Jakarta chairman Bambang Dwi Hartono said the Tuesday meeting with the PKB had also been aimed at identifying an alternative leader to Ahok.

While not yet deciding on a candidate, PDI-P leaders and supporters have named several party members as potential candidates, including the popular Surabaya Mayor Tri “Risma” Rismaharini. Besides her achievements in leading the second-largest city, Risma, who wears a hijab, would attract Muslim voters, who are traditionally reluctant to vote for the nationalist PDI-P.

Meanwhile, besides wooing Muslim voters, Ahok is also trying hard to enlist support from the PDI-P. Last week he was seen in a car with PDI-P chairwoman Megawati Soekarnoputri, President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo, Megawati’s daughter Puan Maharani and the party’s secretary- general Hasto Kristyanto on the way to the closing ceremony of Golkar’s national meeting.
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