Friday, April 21, 2017

Positive reflections on the Jakarta gubernatorial election

Elections everywhere!

In February (Reflections on the Indonesian elections), I discussed the Indonesian elections and especially the Jakarta gubernatorial election. I did so to clarify issues in my mind. As I said at the time, I know far less than I should about the Indonesian system of Government.

At the time the post was written, a major shadow hung over incumbent Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama because of blasphemy allegations. It was not clear whether Ahok would be allowed to run and, if so, what the results might be.

Since that post, Ahok and his running mate Djarot Syaiful Hidayat managed a narrow victory in the first round, but then went on to lose to Anies Rasyid Baswedan and Sandiaga Salahuddin Uno (photo) in the second by an apparently reasonably substantial margin. At this stage, we only have exit poll results, but these appear conclusive. Just prior to the elction, opinion polls showed the Ahok team ahead, but with a considerable undecided vote. It appears that the undecideds swung against Ahok.

In a piece in the Jakarta Globe reprinted from the Conversation, Alexander R. Arifianto bemoans the election result. The piece concludes:
 By creating these accusations against Ahok, the Islamists have refused to recognise the legal rights of Indonesia’s ethnic and religious minorities to run for public office. Ahok’s loss means that Indonesia’s ethno-religious diversity is the biggest casualty of this highly polarising election. 
I took a different and more positive view. 

One of the really difficult things about democracy lies in the way that it allows views to be expressed that others find repugnant. This flows though into responses to defeat, the way you accept results that may be anathema to you. A related issue, one central to the long term effective working of democracy, is the avoidance or at least management of what is called the tyranny of the majority. Just because you have won does not give you the right to automatically override others. Power needs to be exercise with discretion.

Against this background, I saw a number of positives from the results.

Despite campaigning by hard-line groups that was itself fundamentally undemocratic, a theocracy is not a democracy, the final election both proceeded and proceeded peacefully. Further, and despite all the anti-campaigning, a significant number of Muslim voters must have voted for the Ahok team, while not all those who voted for Anies Rasyid Baswedan and Sandiaga Salahuddin Uno did so on religious grounds. This was also a campaign about policies for the development and governance of Jakarta.

 The actions of the Ahok team since the result became clear are also conducive to democracy. Indeed, certain Australian politicians might take note. The transition of power does not take place until October, However, not only were Ahok and his colleague graceful in defeat, but according to the Jakarta Globe, they have already moved to involve the new Anies administration in budget processes so that the 2018 budget reflects the new administration's priorities. Quite remarkable, really.      .

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