The Jakarta Post
Rian Ernest, a rising politician and former staffer for Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama, announced his candidacy for the Batam mayoral election in 2020.
He and his running mate, local activist Yusiani Gurusinga, will run as independent candidates.
"My ancestors were from Batam and Anambas [Natuna]. Batam is an island of nomads. It’s very plural, I'm sure the Batam people can accept me," the 32-year-old Rian said.
Rian was a close aide of Ahok during the latter’s tenure as Jakarta governor. He later became a legislative nominee under the Indonesian Solidarity Party's (PSI) ticket, and served as one of the spokespersons for Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s reelection campaign earlier this year.
His mayoral nomination comes after Rian failed to secure a seat at the House of Representatives as the PSI failed to meet the legislative threshold.
Rian, a Chinese-Indonesian politician, is optimistic that he can win over the majority of Batam people, whose backgrounds are mostly Malay and Muslim.
“Not only am I a double minority [Christian and Chinese], but my dad is also German, but I'm still optimistic. Because I believe that Indonesia or Batam is our home. I cannot choose where and what religion I’m born into," he said.
To be an independent candidate, Rian must collect at least 49,000 e-identity cards (e-KTP). He aims to collect at least 60,000 KTPs in the next 70 days.
"In just four days of work, our team has collected 1,000 KTPs, we are optimistic that we can meet the requirements.”
Rian said that, if elected, he aimed to improve Batam, particularly in the tourism and economy sectors.
Despite his ties with Ahok and Jokowi, Rian denied that he had gained political or financial support from either figure for his candidacy.
"I am no longer that close with Pak Ahok, or [Jakarta Governor] Anies Baswedan and Pak Jokowi. There is no moral or material support from them for my nomination,“ he said.
Rian is an alumnus of Indonesia Mengajar, an education movement founded by Anies. When Anies challenged then-incumbent Ahok in the 2017Jakarta gubernatorial election, Rian started to express criticism of Anies’ statements and political movements.
Rian’s party, the PSI, bills itself as a party for millennials and has a strong social media presence.
The party members have constantly challenged taboo issues in Indonesian discourse such as polygamy, minorities and sharia-inspired bylaws.
Although the party failed to obtain seats in the House, the party successfully secured eight seats in the Jakarta Legislative Council after collecting over 400,000 votes of Jakartans. (ggq)