JAKARTA’s minority Chinese-Christian governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama has earned the most number of mentions on Twitter, according to a study by the microblogging site.
Ahok, who is seeking reelection during this Wednesday’s gubernatorial race, dominated discussions in the Twittersphere, and was mentioned in more than 2.5 million tweets.
He trumped his two Muslim contenders in discussions by more than a million tweets, the study showed. In contrast, Agus Harimurti Yudhoyono, the son of former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, was mentioned in 1.4 million tweets, while former education minister Anies Baswedan was mentioned in 910,000 tweets.
According to its online release of the survey, Twitter Indonesia said it began monitoring conversations about the poll when the #Debat1PilkadaDKI began trending on Jan 12.
“The rankings, however, are not an indication of the sentiments expressed towards the candidates,” Twitter Indonesia said.
As such, it is unclear how many of the 2.5 million tweets spoke favourably of Ahok.
The social media platform also shared data on Twitter activity during the third and final gubernatorial debate last Friday.
According to its findings, public attention peaked when the candidates squared off for their final round of debates. Some 600,000 posts using the hashtag #DebatFinalDKI were posted on the day.
As at 9pm Friday night, tweets were being posted at a rate of 1,800 per minute, Twitter Indonesia said.
Tens of millions of Indonesians will cast their ballots Wednesday in a local election race that has now become a test for religious tolerance, democracy and the rise of conservatism.
Bitter feuding over the Jakarta governor’s seat in particular has stoked political and religious tensions in recent months, with hardline Islamists in the world’s most populous Muslim nation campaigning hard to keep the coveted post in the hands of one of its fellow adherents.
Ahok, Jakarta’s first ethnic Chinese and Christian leader, has been at the center of the storm. Months ago last year, he angered Muslim voters with remarks his detractors regard as an insult to the Quran.
The Jakarta incumbent has denied wrongdoing, apologized, is facing blasphemy charges for the slight, and many even say his comments were likely taken out of context, but the capital’s Muslim populace has largely remained unforgiving.
Apart from several protests last year, one of which turned violent, last weekend also saw thousands gather for a mass prayer rally calling for a Muslim candidate to be elected in Ahok’s place.
According to Reuters, Ahok’s contenders appear to have won over much of the conservative Islamic vote, and even his supporters.
“In terms of performance, I support Ahok,” Ferdi Ramadhan, 20, was quoted saying on Sunday, a day after the prayer rally.
“However, there’s the consideration of religion. I’m Muslim… so I think I will vote for Anies Baswedan,” he added.
The Jakarta race is key as it could be the stepping stone to the presidency, and will also determine whether the latter contest will again be marred by religious and ethnic divisions.
Observers have said that the country’s hardline Islamists have been relying on fake news to spread fear of a Chinese takeover of the Indonesian economy.
According to Australia-based Indonesian politics watcher Marcus Mietzner in a recent article, these Islamists have been conflating “the issue of China’s economic and political rise with the position of ethnic Chinese in Indonesia, producing a toxic mash that threatens to undermine social stability in the country.”
The ethnic Chinese only form 2 percent of the Indonesian population but are said to be the biggest players in the country’s US$900 billion economy.