(AsiaNews) - Tensions are rising in Jakarta, Java, as the date (20 September) of
the runoff in the capital's gubernatorial election approaches. The race is very
close and everything is good, even personal attacks, against other candidates. However,
there is a risk that it might become an ethnic and social confrontation. Billboards,
messages and video footage are being used to denigrate candidates running
against the incumbent governor, especially against a non-Muslim Chinese-Indonesian
who is running for the post of deputy governor. Imams and other religious leaders
have also stepped into the ring, telling their co-religionists not to trust
people who are not close to Islam.
Widodo (aka Jokowi) and his running mate Basuki Tjahaja Purnama (aka Ahok) are going
against outgoing Jakarta Governor Fauzi "Foke" Bowo. In the first round
of voting, the challengers harnessed 42.6 per cent of the vote, whilst Bowo got
only 34.05 per cent. The runoff is now an open match and the incumbent is not
certain of re-election.
The campaign took on an incendiary note when attacks began aimed at Basuki,
an ethnic Chinese from Solo (central Java) who also happens to be Christian.
The ongoing attempts to discredit him could however heighten tensions
between religious groups and ignite sectarian violence in a campaign that is
increasingly taking on a national dimension.
Jakarta has a history of majority Muslims attacking minority Chinese,
both Christian and Buddhist. In May 1998, when Dictator Suharto still ruled the
country, thousands of people were victims of vicious and unprecedented violent
attacks that have regularly flared up ever since, evidence of the fragile
social fabric of the world's most populous Muslim country.
More and more voices can be heard, appealing to the population to vote
for candidates that are ethnic Betawi, i.e. native Jakartans, and Muslim, like Governor
Bowo, a moderate
in the city's politics.
against Basuki have come various quarters, including a musician. Similarly, during
his sermon in a mosque, a religious leader urged Muslims not to vote for the
In a not
so subtle message, a number of videos have
been posted on the Internet, showing the sectarian violence that rocked Jakarta
in 1998, reminding voters that this might happen again if an ethnic Chinese is
For his part, Jokowi has been attacked as an anti-Islamic, pro-Zionist