Challenger Appears to Have Edge in Jakarta Governor’s Race

By SARA SCHONHARDT

Source: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/21/world/asia/21iht-jakarta21.html
Published: September 20, 2012

JAKARTA, Indonesia — Voters in the Indonesian capital cast their ballots
for a new governor on Thursday, with exit polls suggesting victory for
the populist mayor of a city in central Java over the incumbent.

Surveys of voters conducted by the Indonesia Survey Institute, an independent organization, showed Joko Widodo, the mayor of Surakarta, pulling in 54 percent of the vote and Gov. Fauzi Bowo of Jakarta taking 46 percent, with a margin of error of plus or minus two percentage points. Official results are not expected for at least another week, but exit polls by the same organization accurately predicted the outcome of the first round of voting in July.

In that vote, Mr. Joko emerged as the surprise leader in a race that has stirred unusual enthusiasm among voters who say they are sick of corruption and politicians who have done little to address the city’s notoriously clogged traffic, poor sanitation and slums.

Mr. Joko has made the most of his reputation for running a clean and efficient administration in Surakarta in promoting his message of change. His campaign was also notable for its use of social media. Mr. Joko’s team made efforts to reach out to voters with Skype conversations and YouTube music videos.

Last month his supporters set their own words to the tune from a song by One Direction to highlight Jakarta’s most intractable problems: flooding, bribery and traffic congestion.

Analysts said that a change in Jakarta’s leadership could mark the beginning of a bigger political change in national elections two years from now.

“This election reflects the contrast between a candidate that relies on a political machine and the strength of a politician that people believe has a heart for their interests,” said Aleksius Jemadu, dean of the School of Social and Political Sciences at Pelita Harapan University in Tangerang, Indonesia.

On Thursday morning, millions of Jakarta residents flocked to festively decorated voting stations. Officials put the turnout at 67 percent of eligible voters, up from 63 percent in July. No candidate won a majority then, leading to the runoff Thursday between the two leading candidates.

Off a narrow street in the city’s center, an area ringed by slums and street vendors, children wore buttons with heart and mustache symbols, signaling support for Mr. Fauzi’s re-election by referring to his trademark facial hair.

Voters there said the city had improved under Mr. Fauzi’s leadership, citing programs like free education and health care and improvements in flood zones. But those changes did not appear to have won over enough voters.

After the polls closed, some supporters of Mr. Joko posted messages online welcoming him as the capital’s new governor. Others expressed reservations.

“O.K., he’s an honest guy, he’s a clean guy. But whether he can manage Jakarta is a big question mark,” said Edi Susanto, a banker in North Jakarta.

Analysts agree that Mr. Joko faces formidable challenges bringing change to a city far bigger and more complex than Surakarta, but some said his strong showing was a positive sign for Indonesian democracy.

“Voters realize that Jokowi maybe cannot deal with the problems, but they have run out of hope for Fauzi,” said Burhanuddin Muhtadi of the Indonesia Survey Institute, using Mr. Joko’s nickname. “Jokowi gives people hope.”

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