JAKARTA (Reuters) - Jakarta voters head to the polls on Wednesday to elect a governor for Indonesia’s capital after a campaign that incited political and religious tensions in the world’s most populous Muslim country.
The race to lead the city of more than 10 million has been fought by two candidates - an ethnic Chinese Christian and a Muslim. It has triggered mass protests and stirred religious and political tensions in the world’s third largest democracy.
Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, known by his Chinese nickname as “Ahok”, is the incumbent governor who took over running Jakarta in 2014 when his then boss, Joko Widodo, won the presidency. Purnama, 50, is the city’s first ethnic Chinese and Christian leader and is backed by the ruling Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P).
Purnama is standing trial on blasphemy charges after allegedly insulting the Koran during the campaign. Hundreds of thousands of protesters rallied after an edited video of his comments about a Koranic verse were circulated. He has appeared in court throughout the campaign. If he wins the election but is convicted of blasphemy, Purnama can assume office as long as an appeals process is going on.
Purnama’s policies include new infrastructure to fix Jakarta’s chronic traffic congestion, flood mitigation, better waste management and anti-corruption measures.
Anies Baswedan, 47, is the former rector of Jakarta’s Paramadina University and campaign manager for Widodo during the 2014 election. Widodo appointed him education minister but sacked him less than two years later.
Baswedan has shifted allegiance to Widodo’s presidential rival in the 2014 campaign, Prabowo Subianto, and now represents Subianto’s Gerindra Party. Baswedan was criticised for meeting hardline Islamists during the campaign. His platform has focused on improving public education and combating the rising cost of living. He opposes a giant seawall in Jakarta Bay that Purnama has advocated.
The April 19 election is a runoff between the two most popular candidates in the first round of polling held on Feb. 15. In the first round, Purnama received 43 per cent of the vote and Baswedan 40 per cent. A third candidate, Agus Yudhoyono, dropped out of the race after receiving only 17 per cent of the vote.
A candidate needs a simple majority to win.
Private pollsters approved by the General Elections Commission will conduct quick counts of a sample of votes after polls close on April 19, giving an indication of the winner.
Official results are expected to be announced by the elections commission by May 5-6.
Defeated candidates can dispute the results in the Constitutional Court.
About 7.1 million people are registered to vote in Jakarta. The turnout was 77 per cent for the first round of voting.
Compiled by Jakarta bureau; Editing by Bill Tarrant