Jakarta governor election: Respected Muslim scholar sets sights on top office

Indonesian President Joko Widodo (R) followed by Anies Baswedan (L) a senior member of Widodo's presidenbtial campaign team, emerge from Friday prayer at a mosque at the presidential palace in Jakarta on October 24, 2014.

Campaigning for February's election for the next Jakarta governor began last month. Incumbent Basuki 'Ahok' Tjahaja Purnama has been leading in the opinion polls but has seen his numbers slip of late. Mr Basuki was officially named a suspect in a blasphemy case last week, a development some observers described as a gift to his two main challengers - Mr Agus Harimurti Yudhoyono and Mr Anies Baswedan.

A renowned Muslim scholar listed among the world's top 100 public intellectuals by Foreign Policy magazine in 2008, Mr Anies Baswedan has made no bones about wanting to be Indonesia's next president.

The 47-year-old former rector of Paramadina University in Jakarta is widely respected as an academic who has spoken about the role of Islam in Indonesian democracy at global forums.

His most notable achievement was initiating Gerakan Indonesia Mengajar, or the "Teaching Indonesia" movement, which has recruited and trained young volunteer professionals to teach poor Indonesians in remote regions countrywide.

Of Arab lineage, he is the grandson of the late Abdurrahman Baswedan, who was deputy minister for information under Indonesia's first president, Soekarno. Mr Anies is married with four children.

Eloquent and soft-spoken, he holds a doctorate in political science from Northern Illinois University, a master's in public policy from the University of Maryland School of Public Policy and a business management degree from Gadjah Mada University in Yogyakarta.

Tens of thousands of Muslim hardliners in protest march against Jakarta governor for alleged blasphemy

  • Ahok - the first Christian to go­­vern Jakarta in more than 50 years
  • - will defend allegations that he insulted the Quran and fight calls for his imprisonment under Indo­nesia's tough blasphemy laws.
  • Ahok, known for his outspoken style, outraged Muslims when he controversially quoted a passage from the Islamic holy text while campaigning in elections for the Jakarta governorship.
  • The Jakarta police are set to deploy more than 2,000 personnel to secure the first hearing in the trial of non-active Jakarta Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama over blasphemy allegations at the North Jakarta District Court
  • Thousands of Muslims worshipers have been gathering at the National Monument (Monas) square in Central Jakarta since Friday morning to join a mass prayer aimed at intensifying pressure on the police to detain Jakarta Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama in a blasphemy case.
  • Indonesian police offered prayers for peace and called for unity ahead of a massive protest by Muslim hardliners against Jakarta's governor that authorities fear could turn violent.
  • Although the event, initiated by the National Movement to Safeguard the Indonesian Ulema Council’s Fatwa (GNPF-MUI), is scheduled to begin at 8 a.m., some participants said they had arrived as early as 5.30 a.m.
  • Most of them were wearing white.
  • he arriving worshipers first did the wudhu cleansing ritual with water provided at the location, before sitting down on their prayer mats, facing a large stage where the sermon will be given.
  • Hundreds of police personnel, wearing white Muslim caps, are on standby at the event.
  • This event is a follow-up to a large-scale anti-Ahok rally on Nov. 4, when protesters, mostly from Muslim groups, swarmed Jakarta streets to demand Ahok's prosecution.
  • a Christian and the first ethnic Chinese in the job, over claims that he insulted the Quran.
  • As many as 200,000 demonstrators are expected to gather at Monas during the gathering, which has been authorized to run until 1 p.m.
  • Indonesian police quelled a mass protest by tens of thousands of hardline Muslims , firing tear gas and water cannon into crowds
  • Last month, the National Police named Ahok, a Christian of Chinese descent, a suspect of blasphemy over comments on a Quranic verse the governor had made during a visit to Thousand Islands regency in late September.
  • At one stage during the march, the crowd chanted, "Arrest Ahok now... Kill Ahok now," reported The Straits Times.
  • Police formed human barricades outside key buildings such as ministries, the National Monument and the presidential palace. Armoured vehicles were also on guard to prepare for any violence.
  • A police spokesman said one person died and 12 were hurt.
  • Police said the number of demonstrators in central Jakarta swelled to about 150,000 in the hours after Friday prayers as they congregated around the palace of President Joko Widodo.
  • The crowd grew restive - some threw rocks at the police, two vehicles were torched and a fire broke out near the city's National Monument.
  • Many protesters were clad in robes and Muslim caps as they called for the resignation of Jakarta Governor Basuki Tjahja Purnama.
  • Tens of thousands of Muslim hardliners march to the presidential palace to protest against Jakarta Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama for alleged blasphemy.
  • Many of the demonstrators, led by the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI), had performed their Friday (Nov 4) prayers at the Istiqlal mosque, as well as on the streets and pavements outside.
  • Droves of protesters, including women in headscarves, arrived in buses, motorcycles and even on foot from as far as Bali and Kalimantan, choking major roads in the capital city.
  • Men in white Islamic robes chanted "Allahu Akbar" (God is Greater) as they walked towards the mosque, carrying Indonesian flags and waving posters with the words "Arrest or Expel Ahok", referring to the Jakarta governor.
  • Indonesian muslim students carry a mock coffin that reads: "Arrest Ahok".
  • Footage from local TV stations showed demonstrators standing on trucks and shouting through loudspeakers, calling for a peaceful rally.
  • Organisers said 200,000 people, including many from outside Jakarta, will participate in the rally. They will march to the state palace to press for the authorities to charge Mr Basuki, better known as Ahok, for allegedly insulting Islam.
  • Despite the major rally, the governor who is seeking re-election, remains unfazed, saying he will continue to campaign on Friday.
  • Truckloads of soldiers and police took the streets of Jakarta, securing shopping malls and business areas,
  • as residents in the Indonesian capital braced for a large-scale protest planned by hardline Muslim groups.
  • Thousands of protesters, led by the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI), are expected to demand the resignation of the Jakarta governor,
  • Some Muslim groups have accused Purnama of blasphemy after he said his opponents had deceived voters by attacking him using a verse from the Quran.
  • The mood is tense in Jakarta, a sprawling city of around 10 million, with companies asking employees to work from home,
  • access to the main business district restricted and several foreign embassies urging their citizens to stay safe.

His candidacy in the gubernatorial race did not come as a surprise, and he has been touted as a serious contender against the incumbent, Mr Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama, although Mr Anies' electability ratings are lower. His supporters are intellectuals and those from the middle and upper classes.

He is partnering businessman Sandiaga Uno on the ticket of 2014 presidential runner-up Prabowo Subianto's Gerindra Party. If elected as governor, Mr Anies has promised programmes for social welfare, particularly in health and education.

The scholar was picked by President Joko Widodo to be his spokesman during the 2014 presidential election campaign. Later appointed culture and education minister, Mr Anies was dropped just 20 months later.

There was speculation that his ambition to contest the 2019 presidential election had bothered Mr Joko. Political analyst Arbi Sanit said, whatever the speculation, his dismissal could be viewed by ordinary voters as incompetence.

Mr Joko's recent meetings with Mr Prabowo have spurred talk that Mr Anies might gain the backing of the president if Ahok falls into disfavour because of an ongoing case in which the Chinese-Christian Jakarta governor has been accused of blasphemy against Islam.

Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI) analyst Siti Zuhro said: "Politics is very dynamic. There could be political manoeuvres. It doesn't close the possibility that support might move to Anies."

Arlina Arshad

This article was first published on Nov 21, 2016.
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