FOR several months, headlines across Indonesia and the region have been dominated by the political theatre of Jakartan governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama’s alleged blasphemy case.
In February’s preliminary gubernatorial Jakarta election, the incumbent still managed to gain the most votes, whilst the controversy probably stopped him from securing an outright win. A dark horse was his rival Anies Baswedan, who emerged from significantly trailing his rivals, to attract only 3 percent less votes than Ahok.
So, who is Anies?
He is an academic who served as Education Minister under President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo, when he spearheaded a lauded national program named Indonesia Menajar or Teaching Indonesia – an initiative that sends bright young people to teach in disadvantaged communities.
He was one of the first Indonesians to gain a Fulbright Scholarship to study in the United States, where he did his doctorate in political science at Northern Illinois University.
He is articulate in English, built his reputation and career upon promoting tolerant, moderate Islam, and was the Rector of Paramadina University in Jakarta for almost a decade until 2015.
A natural orator, Anies has performed well in the televised debates against his rivals and was successful in courting the conservative Islamic vote.
Clever exploitation of many people’s disillusion with Ahok has also seen Anies’ popularity rise and rise during the campaign.
Will Anies replace Ahok as Jakarta governor today? Stay with us on Asian Correspondent to find out.