Home English News Voting starts in Jakarta run-off election for governor

Voting starts in Jakarta run-off election for governor

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Voting began Wednesday in the second round of the Indonesian capital’s gubernatorial election after campaigning marked by sectarian and ethnic tensions.

The election for the governor of Jakarta pits Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama, an ethnic Chinese Christian against former education minister Anies Baswedan, who has courted the support of conservative Muslims despite his liberal credentials.

Recent polls suggest that the race is too close to call, with Baswedan leading by a percentage point in two surveys.

Official results will not be announced until the first week of May, but quick counts by independent pollsters should be able to predict the winner hours after the polls close.

The election is seen by some analysts as a test of secular democracy in the world’s most populous predominantly Muslim country.

Purnama’s bid for a second term has been dogged by a blasphemy case triggered by comments he made on the Koran that were deemed insulting to Islam.

Purnama won a three-way first-round vote on February 15, securing 43 per cent of the votes. Baswedan came second with 40 per cent.

Purnama’s remarks that there were people who deceived Muslim voters into believing that the Koran commands them not to vote for Jews and Christians sparked massive street protests by conservatives in November and December.

Purnama was charged with blasphemy and is facing a maximum five-year jail term if found guilty. He remains free and a verdict is expected after the election.

He has apologized for the remarks, and said that he was referring to those who misused religion for political gain.

His campaign has warned that a victory for his Islamist-backed opponent could threaten diversity and pluralism.

-dpa