The Jakarta Post
Supporters and sympathizers of Jakarta Governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama have turned City Hall into a colorful jungle of flower boards. The unprecedented spectacle has sent both soothing and worrying messages.
Admirers sent flower boards to express their sympathy, sadness or support for Ahok and Deputy Governor Djarot Saiful Hidayat, who have conceded defeat in the April 19 election, which exacerbated sectarianism and fanned anti-Chinese sentiments.
Fortunately, Jakarta’s post-election atmosphere is calm, at least on the surface. Ahok congratulated his rival, Anies Baswedan, after all quick counts and exit polls showed he lost by a large margin. What is more, he promised to expedite major development projects in his remaining seven months in office. Equally reassuring, Anies publicly praised Ahok as one of Indonesia’s best leaders who had brought about great things for Jakarta.
However, below the surface, undercurrents remain strong, albeit not as strong as they were in the weeks leading up to the election. On social media, supporters of both Ahok and Anies are still engaged in wars of words. A Christian of Chinese descent, Ahok has retained his stigma as a “blasphemer of Islam” although his trial is still ongoing. On the other hand, some people view Anies as an untrustworthy politician who relies on the backing of Islamic hard-liners with an agenda of turning the pluralistic Indonesia into an Islamic state.
To a great extent, the countless messages for Ahok and Djarot scrawled across the flower boards mirror these sentiments. At a glimpse, the notes may sound playful, flattering, melancholic and even childish, but they are expressions of political cynicism.
On social media, there are viral messages, which predict the comeback of all sorts of social ills, religious bigotry and massive political corruption in Jakarta under Anies. This negativity is a waste of time and unproductive as it could hamper efforts to make all Jakartans come together for the common goal of making Jakarta more livable.
The flower boards should serve as a reminder of people’s longing for government leaders with integrity. Aside from his infamous abrasive manner, Ahok will be fondly remembered as a bare knuckle fighter who aggressively guarded public coffers, a risky mission that has won him lots of enemies and admirers.
Heartbroken Ahok supporters should move on and give Anies a fair chance to prove himself. The new governor will have to continue his predecessor’s legacy, such as the much commendable e-budgeting for better transparency, mass rapid transportation system projects, reducing corruption in administration and improving public services.
What we want to see is supporters of both Ahok and Anies demonstrating solidarity and burying their political hatchets.