Stories on our minds this month
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.