Sto­ries on our minds this month

Southeast Asia Globe - - Contents - – Euan Black

The re­cent Jakarta elec­tion has largely been framed as a choice be­tween plu­ral­ism and po­lit­i­cal Is­lam. To what ex­tent do you agree with this?

I agree that the elec­tion was a con­tes­ta­tion be­tween plu­ral­ism and rad­i­cal Is­lam. But more im­por­tant is that we are see­ing the rein­tro­duc­tion of what is known as the New Or­der, which is the pol­i­tics of the Suharto era. Be­cause who is re­ally be­hind the Is­lamist groups? It’s [re­cent pres­i­den­tial can­di­date] Prabowo Su­bianto and the youngest son of [for­mer dic­ta­tor] Suharto, Tommy Suharto.

What does this mean for the coun­try?

The elec­tion in Jakarta is Prabowo’s first step to­ward con­test­ing the pres­i­den­tial elec­tions in 2019. He is us­ing the elec­tions to test the wa­ter, and he wants to make sure that he gets sup­port from the Is­lamic groups. We [the prodemoc­racy move­ment] do not want Prabowo as pres­i­dent. He is not only re­spon­si­ble for hu­man rights abuses in the past, but also en­gages in cor­rupt busi­ness prac­tices. We have lost the first bat­tle, but the sec­ond bat­tle in 2019 is for the fu­ture gen­er­a­tion to de­cide.

What chal­lenges must Anies Baswedan over­come once he is sworn into of­fice in Oc­to­ber?

The ques­tion is: how can he dis­tance his ad­min­is­tra­tion from the [hard­line] Is­lamic groups while still ca­ter­ing to their de­mands? That’s the chal­lenge for him, be­cause Jakarta is a mul­ti­cul­tural city, oc­cu­pied by peo­ple from lots of dif­fer­ent eth­nic back­grounds and so­cio-eco­nomic classes, so who­ever runs an ad­min­is­tra­tion in Jakarta can­not only sat­isfy the rad­i­cal groups, he must also take into ac­count the de­mands of peo­ple from all back­grounds. He must im­prove the coun­try’s in­fra­struc­ture and eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment, but also in­equal­ity be­cause, in Jakarta, the gap be­tween rich and poor is high. That’s the main prob­lem. If he can­not meet the de­mands of the poor, he will have many prob­lems.

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