Jakarta governor election to remain high-stakes contest, despite Nusantara taking over as Indonesia’s capital

Former West Java governor Ridwan Kamil, who backed Mr Prabowo during the presidential election, is also being touted as a contender by his party, Golkar. His tenure as governor of West Java ended in September last year.

Despite billboards of Mr Ridwan with the tagline “on the way Jakarta” adorning some parts of the capital, the head of Golkar’s West Java chapter Ace Hasan Syadzily said on Tuesday (May 14) that Mr Ridwan prefers to run in West Java again. 

“Mr Ridwan Kamil has told me that he is so far leaning towards (running in) West Java,” Mr Ace said. “But he also said to me that where he will be ‘assigned’ depends on the party.”

An individual may serve as governor twice and, since Mr Ridwan has only served once, he may make another bid.

Ahok, meanwhile, sparked a political wave recently after launching a podcast called “Ask Ahok Anything” to address issues faced by Jakarta and its residents.

He took over as Jakarta governor in 2014 after Mr Widodo, also known as Jokowi, became president. Ahok ran in the 2017 Jakarta gubernatorial election against two other candidates: Mr Anies, who was briefly Jokowi’s education minister until 2016, and Mr Agus Harimurti Yudhoyono, son of former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. 

Initially, Ahok emerged on top but as he did not secure more than 50 per cent of the vote, the election went into a runoff where he lost against Mr Anies. 

He was imprisoned for blasphemy shortly after the 2017 Jakarta gubernatorial election and released in January 2019.

Like him, Mr Anies is allowed to contest again.

Observers fancy his chances but note he does not belong to any political party. 

To run independently, hopefuls had to register with Jakarta’s election commission between May 8 and 12. Mr Anies did not register then, which means he must be backed by political parties should he want to contest this time.

In 2017, he was backed by Gerindra and the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS). In the second round of the election, the National Mandate Party (PAN) joined the coalition to back him.

The only pair to register independently for this year’s gubernatorial election was retired police commissioner general Dharma Pongrekun, who chose Mr Kun Wardana Abyoto, who is self-employed, as his running mate.

Independent candidates are, however, usually not strong contenders, said Mr Aditya from the University of Indonesia.

“Independent candidates are usually irrelevant because they are considered second options,” he said, adding that they are without the support of experienced political parties with campaign machinery. 

The emergence of so many names for the Jakarta election is not unusual. 

In the 2012 election, for example, six pairs of candidates contested in the first round while in the 2017 election, there were initially three pairs before the contest went into a runoff. 

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