Jakarta's Christian governor claws back support

City election debate sees undecided voters backing blasphemy plagued incumbent Ahok
Jakarta's Christian governor claws back support

Jakarta's Christian governor, Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, center, is making gains among undecided voters in the run up to a city election on Feb. 15, according to a recent opinion poll. (Photo by AFP)

Embattled Jakarta governor, Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, is gaining support from undecided voters, following a debate held last week ahead of a gubernatorial election in Indonesia’s capital next month.    

Support for the Christian governor, popularly known as "Ahok" dropped significantly after he was accused of blasphemy in October and went on trial in December.

The trial is expected to last for months, which enables Ahok to stand in the election scheduled to take place on Feb. 15.

According to pollster Saiful Mujani Research and Consulting, the Jan. 13 debate has convinced many undecided voters to vote for Ahok as they believe he is the best choice to manage Jakarta and its problems.

Voters believe the other candidate Agus Harimurti Yudhoyono, eldest son of former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and Anies Baswedan, a former education minister, do not have much to offer.

Yohanes Handoyo Budhisedjati, chairman of Vox Point Indonesia, a Catholic political organization, said the debate has helped people see how good Ahok’s political will is.

"People can see what he has done and I believe he will get more votes, despite the blasphemy accusations," Budhisedjati told ucanews.com on Jan. 16.

In the debate Ahok vowed to continue successful policies undertaken during his first term that included providing better housing for former slum dwellers and tackling corruption.

Ermelinda Tara from St. James Parish in North Jakarta, said the debate proved Ahok was the better candidate.

"I believe Ahok will finish what he has started if he is given the chance," said Tara who added that her home has been flood free since Ahok took office in November 2014.

"The debate strengthened my decision to vote for Ahok," said Asamanduru, a member of the Communion of Churches in Indonesia.

 "The blasphemy case will not affect it," he said.

A second debate will be held on Jan. 27 and the third on Feb. 10, five days before around 7 million voters go to the polls.

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