Jakarta residents appeared set to elect a new governor, with unofficial tallies showing a defeat for one of President Joko Widodo’s top allies.
Former education minister Anies Baswedan held a comfortable lead in quick count surveys over Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, the incumbent governor nicknamed Ahok. He had taken over the job when Widodo, known as Jokowi, won the presidency in 2014.
“We just got news that 90 percent of the quick count has come in and it shows that Jakarta has a new governor and deputy governor,” Prabowo Subianto, Baswedan’s main backer who lost to Jokowi in the presidential election, told reporters on Wednesday. The former general heads one of Indonesia’s biggest opposition parties and is seen as a potential challenger to Jokowi in 2019.
The race exposed religious tensions in Muslim-majority Indonesia as Ahok, an ethnic Chinese Christian, struggled to overcome allegations that he insulted the Koran. The issue overshadowed his track record in pushing infrastructure projects and streamlining the bureaucracy, traits that won him credit among the foreign business community.
“It’s momentum for the opposition for 2019,” said Tobias Basuki, a researcher at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies in Jakarta. “Basically now the opposition controls Jakarta. Prabowo and his party Gerindra has momentum. There is going to be a lot more pressure on the current administration.”
Baswedan, a former minister in Jokowi’s cabinet who lost his cabinet position last year, has pledged to boost growth by allowing more private-sector participation in the economy. Of late, he has pledged to work with the president.
“Now we start a new chapter, and we should work together to improve this city,” Baswedan told reporters on Wednesday. “Our focus is social justice, ending inequality and our commitment is to safeguard diversity and unity.”
Ahok later appeared to concede defeat at a media conference, congratulating the winning ticket while also calling for unity. “We will work hard for my last six months,” he told reporters.
The Jakarta governor has outsized political influence in Indonesia, overseeing a city that contributes nearly a fifth of the nation’s gross domestic product and the bulk of its finance.
More than 60,000 security personnel had been deployed around the capital where millions of people voted until polls closed at 1 p.m. Opinion polls published before polls opened suggested the race would be too close to call.
Officially a holiday for Jakarta residents, the Indonesia Stock Exchange was closed Wednesday.