The Jakarta Post
Former Jakarta governor Basuki “BTP” Tjahaja Purnama, also known as Ahok, has officially joined the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), ending speculations of whether the Chinese-Indonesian politician would ever return to politics after being convicted of blasphemy nearly two years ago.
Ahok announced his decision in Bali on Friday following a meeting with leaders of the party’s chapter on the resort island, tribunnews.com reported.
Wearing a red jacket, the PDI-P’s signature color, Ahok told reporters: “I have [thought about this]. I have always been a sympathizer”.
The PDI-P is the party of Ahok’s former partners at the Jakarta administration, President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo and Djarot Saeful Hidayat. Ahok was Jokowi’s deputy governor when the latter served as Jakarta governor. Djarot took Ahok’s job when Jokowi was elected president and left his position to Ahok.
The former governor said that he had chosen the PDI-P because the party “fits my ideology”.
PDI-P executive Hendrawan Supratikno said Ahok had long been considered a PDI-P member as he was someone who understood and accepted the party’s ideology.
“I heard that he already has a party membership card, so there are no administrative issues anymore,” he said.
Ahok’s decision to join the PDI-P is hardly surprising, with Djarot insinuating weeks before his release that the former would join his party. Few thought that Ahok would announce his decision to join the PDI-P this early.
Jokowi’s political rivals have repeatedly attacked the president’s alliance with Ahok. The latest anti-Ahok rally in Jakarta saw a call made by an Islamist leader who told Muslims to shun parties that backed “the blasphemer”.
Ahok was sentenced to two years in prison for blasphemy following a speech he made in Thousand Islands regency in September 2016 that referred to Al-Maidah verse 51 in the Quran.
Ahok said that the verse — believed to ban Muslims from choosing a non-Muslim leader — had been used to deceive people into voting against him. The case played a major role in Ahok's defeat in the 2017 Jakarta gubernatorial election.
Ahok started his political career in 2004 when he successfully ran for the Regional Legislative Council in his home province of Bangka Belitung. In 2008, he joined the Golkar Party and was elected to the House of Representatives in 2009.
In 2012, he defected to the Gerindra Party, which backed his bid in the 2012 Jakarta gubernatorial election with then-Surakarta mayor Jokowi. He left Gerindra not long after Jokowi decided to challenge Gerindra Party leader Prabowo Subianto in the 2014 presidential election.
In 2016, Ahok signed a political contract with the PDI-P, which supported his reelection bid with PDI-P politician Djarot as his running mate.