Indonesia: Election Commission to invite foreign observers to monitor Jakarta poll
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Indonesia: Election Commission to invite foreign observers to monitor Jakarta poll

INDONESIA’s General Elections Commission (KPU) says it will invite representatives of election commissions from across Southeast Asia and international NGOs that focus on the electoral process to observe the Jakarta gubernatorial election next month.

According to Jakarta Post, the KPU will host its “Election Visit” program for the poll on Feb 15 and give observers a chance to monitor the vote.

KPU commissioner Sigit Pamungkas said the program to be held at the KPU office in Central Jakarta from Feb 13 to 16 is aimed at introducing Indonesia’s election system to other countries.

“We will invite the participants to monitor polling stations across Jakarta on election day. They will hopefully get an idea about the electoral process in Indonesia,” Sigit told Jakarta Post.

“Apart from observing our elections, they could also share how elections are run in their respective countries,” he added.

Jakarta’s gubernatorial election race, which is to elect the the city’s governor to a five-year term, has been in the news recently due to controversy surrounding one of the three contenders. It is also seen as a test for moderate Islam and democracy.

Incumbent governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama, along with his deputy Djarot Saiful Hidayat, will be running to be re-elected to a second term against his competitors who include Agus Harimurti Yudhoyono and Anies Baswedan, both of whom are Muslim.

Ahok who is Jakarta’s non-Muslim governor in 50 years and the first ethnic Chinse Indonesian to hold the post stands accused of insulting Muslims, which he denies vehemently. He is currently facing blasphemy charges after comments he made to supporters were edited out of context and went viral.

SEE ALSO: Indonesia: Who is Ahok?

The controversy has led to large-scale protests on the streets of Jakarta by hard-line Islamist conservatives.

Despite the protests and blasphemy charges, Ahok is ahead in the polls and appears to be recovering in the gubernatorial race.

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Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, alias Ahok (L), talks as his deputy Djarot Saiful Hidayat during a televised debate in Jakarta, Indonesia, January 13, 2017. Photo via REUTERS

In an article in the Jakarta Post, a public opinion poll by Indikator Politik Indonesia which was released last Wednesday suggested there is much support for Ahok who seemed to have recovered in the race due to his performance in the latest debate.

The polls suggest Ahok and his running mate, Djarot Saiful Hidayat, surged to 38.2 percent in January while the two other candidate pairs, Anies Baswedan-Sandiaga Uno and Agus Harimurti Yudhoyono-Sylviana Murni, won support from 23.8 percent and 23.6 percent of likely voters, respectively.

“Seeing the latest results, it appears Ahok could secure his position to enter the second round of the election, though he will not easily win the race in the normal time,” the Jakarta Post quoted Indikator executive director Burhanuddin Muhtadi as saying.

So it seems that despite the ongoing trial, Ahok remains popular with his core supporters in a nation where underlying religious and ethnic tensions have been simmering for decades.