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Long Agenda Awaits Next Jakarta Governor After High-Stakes Campaign


Anies Baswedan and Sandiaga Uno will be sworn in on Monday as governor and deputy governor, respectively, of Jakarta, nearly six months after they won a contentious election in a landslide.

Baswedan will be Jakarta’s fourth governor in three years: Joko “Jokowi” Widodo vacated the post when he became president in 2014, ceding to his deputy Basuki “Ahok” Purnama Tjahaha, who was jailed for blasphemy after he lost this year’s reelection bid. The current acting governor is Ahok’s deputy, Djarot Saiful Hidayat.

Baswedan, the former Minister of Education, will be the latest to face the enormous developmental challenges facing Jakarta, a city of nearly 10 million people.

He will also have to navigate a minefield of associations, since his campaign allied with Islamist groups like the hardline Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) and benefited from their religiously charged protests against Ahok, who is a Christian in overwhelmingly Muslim Indonesia.

“I do think Anies will be watched more closely because of the Islamist pitch of his campaign rhetoric,” said William Liddle, a professor of Indonesian politics at Ohio State University.

​Municipal Development

“Unfortunately, Baswedan demonstrated during the campaign that he is willing to play the religious card, even though he himself had to know that it was damaging to national unity,” said Liddle. “At the same time, its impact on his governing ability as Jakarta governor is not likely to be very great. Most of the issues that Jakartans face have to do with economic and service issues not connected to religion, and I suspect that these issues will predominate.”

Baswedan and Uno have emphasized housing and transportation as development priorities, and their campaign policy agenda includes proposals like a zero percent down payment on house purchases for lower-income Jakartans, ending evictions in poor slums in northern Jakarta, and expanding the “Smart Card” and “Health Card” programs started by Jokowi.

But it won’t all be easy. For instance, the Ministry of Maritime Affairs has already challenged a major campaign promise from the pair, to stop the reclamation of islets in Jakarta Bay for touristic development.

Minister Luhut Binsar Panjaitan said last week that reclamation would go on since it is under control of the federal government, not the municipal one.

Housing Rights

Many of Jakarta’s poorest residents, some of whom campaigned for Baswedan, are looking forward to his inauguration. Ahok undertook a controversial eviction plan in slums like Pasar Ikan (“Fish Market”) and Luar Batang around Jakarta’s historic harbor. People who lived there came to strongly oppose Ahok’s candidacy on pretexts that were largely separate from the religiously grounded campaign against the former Christian governor, although their motivations often blurred in the mass demonstrations that shook Jakarta last year.

Dharma Diani, a Pasar Ikan resident and land rights activist, said, “Yes, we are happy about the inauguration. But we’re also waiting for real work,” referring to actions such the affordable housing options that they were promised during the campaign.

A spokesperson for Baswedan said that virtual reality headsets would be distributed to certain neighborhoods in Jakarta so that residents could stream the inauguration.

Web of Affiliations

Meanwhile, a steady stream of “flower boards” (a popular commemorative prop in Indonesia) in support of Ahok and current acting governor Djarot has been streaming into City Hall. Ahok was an unconventional politician whose brash, direct style won him fierce supporters alongside the criticism that led to his downfall.

His prison verdict, two years in jail for allegedly insulting the Quran while campaigning last fall, was widely decried as a loss for pluralism in Muslim-majority Indonesia.

Still, beyond the issues of slum evictions and the Jakarta Bay reclamation, the municipal agendas of Baswedan and Ahok have many common goals. Policy issues don’t always sort themselves along party lines in Indonesia, where candidate and personality-based campaigns remain the norm. If executed, Baswedan’s social agenda would continue recent gains in social welfare for Jakartans.

It remains to be seen how Baswedan’s administration will engage with FPI, which was hobbled after the Jakarta election when police issued an arrest warrant for its leader, who was engaged in a sexting scandal.

In a parallel development, Uno has been implicated in a recent spate of crackdowns on corruption among high-level politicians. The wealthy entrepreneur was summoned by Jakarta police for his involvement in a 2012 land embezzlement case. But his testimony date had to be rescheduled because it conflicted with the inauguration.


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