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Jakarta Governor Fauzi Bowo’s failure to distance himself from anti-Christian fringe supporters could hurt him at the ballot box in next month’s gubernatorial runoff vote, experts predict.
Ridwan Saidi, a cultural historian, said concerns about Fauzi turning into a “Shariah governor” were already being raised in the wake of the religious slur used by one of his celebrity supporters, dangdut singer Rhoma Irama, to attack his rival’s Christian running mate.
“People are scared that Fauzi will become a Shariah governor, but that’s something that I saw coming from the very start,” Ridwan said on Tuesday.
“You can’t blame the people for thinking like this.”
He said that Fauzi’s silence on Rhoma’s call for Muslims not to vote for an “infidel” candidate was seen as a tacit approval of the attack, which he argued would ultimately prove counterproductive to Fauzi’s re-election bid.
“I’m certain that in the runoff vote, only 36.5 percent of people at most will vote for Fauzi,” he said.
“That’s because he’s banking on the religious card to give him the win, but the proportion of people who will actually vote along those lines is only around 16 percent and falling.”
Fauzi and his running mate, Nachrowi Ramli, garnered 34 percent in the first round of voting on July 11, coming second to Solo Mayor Joko “Jokowi” Widodo and his running mate, Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama, who won 43 percent.
Since then, the parties that fielded candidates who did not make it into the runoff have all thrown their backing behind Fauzi. The incumbent has also courted the conservative Muslim vote, holding fast-breaking gatherings at mosques across Jakarta and extending the city’s free health care program to clerics.
The Rhoma fiasco was widely believed by analysts to have hurt his chances with mainstream voters, but that has not stopped his fringe supporters from echoing the singer’s call.
On Monday, Abdurrahman Al Habsyi, the influential leader of the Alhabib Ali Alhabsyi prayer group, insisted that the city should have a Muslim governor and deputy governor.
“We have to choose one of our own, a Muslim. Don’t let someone whose faith is unclear lead Jakarta,” he said at a discussion at the Jakarta Islamic Center.
The same theme was picked up by Maulana Kamal Yusuf, a deputy chairman of Nahdlatul Ulama, the country’s largest Islamic organization.
“People should vote for Fauzi and Nachrowi because they’re clearly Muslims,” he told the discussion.
“They are not infidels.”
Also in attendance at the discussion were members of the hard-line Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) and Rhoma.
If the hard-line vote is not expected to help Fauzi come Sept. 20, the flurry of political support will not prove to be much better, Ridwan said.
He argued that the Golkar Party and the United Development Party (PPP) would bring little to the table, given that their candidate, Alex Noerdin, managed just 4.7 percent of votes in the first round.
Likewise, the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS), long considered the determining factor in these polls, has lost much of its clout with Jakarta voters, he said.
“The honeymoon period between the PKS and Jakarta is over,” Ridwan said. “Their candidate [Hidayat Nur Wahid] only won around 500,000 votes in the first round, but maybe just a fifth of that came from actual PKS supporters.”
He said that most of the votes were from National Mandate Party (PAN) supporters, directed at Didik J. Rachbini, Hidayat’s running mate from the PAN.
The Democratic Party, he went on, which has backed Fauzi from the start, is not expected to contribute any new votes in the runoff, largely because of its declining popularity amid a slew of graft scandals implicating several of its senior officials.
Fauzi’s team, however, is playing the numbers game and hoping the math adds up.
“If we count the 4 percent that Alex got and the 11 percent that Hidayat got, that gives us an additional 15 percent,” said Budi Siswanto, the Fauzi-Nachrowi campaign team secretary.
“Add that to the 34 percent that we got in the first round, and we already have 49 percent in the bag.”
But Saleh Daulay, a political analyst from Syarif Hidayatullah State Islamic University, said Fauzi’s extended party base would not help his cause, mostly because the people who voted against him the first time around would do so again, no matter their party affiliation.
“There’s not a single party that can guarantee that its supporters will vote as it says,” he said.
He also said that Jakarta voters tended to be educated and savvy, and they would not rush to back Fauzi simply because the parties had done so.
However, he said that Jokowi and Ahok would need to campaign hard now that they had a host of major parties going against them.
Ari Junaedi, a political analyst from the University of Indonesia, agreed that party loyalty would be meaningless for Fauzi in the runoff vote.
“I predict that the most of the votes from Golkar, the Democrats, the PKS and all the parties supporting Fauzi will go to Jokowi or won’t be used at all,” he said.
He added that not having the other parties flocking to them had actually helped Jokowi and Ahok.
“They’ve played it smart. While the big parties are busy ganging up on them now, they’ve been building a coalition with the people,” he said.
Maringan Pangaribuan, a spokesman for the Jokowi-Ahok campaign team, said they were not concerned about the support being thrown Fauzi’s way and were adjusting their strategy to account for that.
“There’s nothing to be worried about. The ones with the right to vote are the people of Jakarta, not the parties. All that the parties can do is give a recommendation,” he said.
“Besides, we have a new strategy to win the runoff election. That’s definitely going to happen.”
He said the campaign strategy had already been prepared and would be rolled out after Lebaran, the end-of-Ramadan holiday period.
Maringan said the team’s new strategy took into account the lessons learned from the first round of voting and included the necessary improvements.
“It’s like a football match,” he said.
“We’ve played out the first half. Now it’s halftime and we’ve evaluated our weaknesses and mistakes, and we’re going to do better in the second half.”
Ari said he believed that Jokowi would win, arguing that “Jakarta has already voted for him.”
“Even with his limited funding and party support, he’s been able to overturn all the predictions about the incumbent winning,” he said.
“This is the perfect case of vox populi, vox dei.”