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Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Second round voting starts for Jakarta governor's post

JAKARTA - Counting has begun at more than 10,000 polling booths across Indonesia’s capital in a run-off election to decide who will govern Jakarta for the next five years after a campaign marred by religious tensions.

More than 60,000 security personnel have been deployed around the capital where millions of people voted until polls closed at 1pm. Unofficial results are expected within hours.

Recent opinion polls suggest the race is too close to call between incumbent governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, 50, known as Ahok, and 47-year-old former education minister Anies Baswedan.

“We think an Ahok victory would be the foreign-investor-friendly outcome,” said Tim Condon, head of Asia research at ING Bank in Singapore, said in a note published today. “The small turnout at the last anti-Ahok demonstration on March 31 may signal that the religion-based opposition to the incumbent is past its peak.”

Speaking before voting commenced, President Joko Widodo — known as Jokowi — said he had instructed police and military personnel to ensure the security of the election. “All citizens should be able to exercise their rights without being disrupted or intimidated by anyone,” he said.

Street protests

Islamic groups held street protests last year after Ahok, an ethnic Chinese Christian, was accused of insulting the Quran — a crime in Muslim-majority Indonesia. While both major candidates sought to downplay the controversy as the campaign progressed, a victory for Ahok risks reviving the demonstrations.

The winner will control Indonesia’s business centre, which contributes nearly a fifth of the nation’s gross domestic product and the bulk of its finance. Ahok has run on a track record of tackling corruption and accelerating infrastructure projects, while Baswedan has pledged to boost growth by allowing more private-sector participation in the economy.

The race also has potential implications for the 2019 presidential election. Baswedan is backed by Prabowo Subianto, who lost to Jokowi in the 2014 national vote and may seek to challenge him again in a few years.

Officially a holiday for Jakarta residents, the Indonesia Stock Exchange is closed. Bank Indonesia has limited operations with national clearing systems and cash operations operating normally. — Bloomberg

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