Jakarta holds civic polls amid protests against governor

Jakarta, Feb 15 (IANS) Millions of Indonesians cast their votes in the Jakarta municipal elections on Wednesday amid tensions between Muslim protesters and Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, who is seeking re-election.

Basuki, an ethnic Chinese Christian popularly known as Ahok, is the first non-Muslim governor of the capital and in November 2016 was accused of blasphemy for his comments with which he rejected criticism from opponents based on a verse from the Quran.

During the investigation of the case, Basuki claimed that the video in which he appeared making the controversial statements had been manipulated and apologised if he had offended Muslims, Efe news reported.

The Governor was leading the polls with a large majority before the judicial process began.

However, although Ahok remains at the top of the electoral race, he will need to go to a second round of voting for the re-election, according to the latest polls. Ahok is running for the five-year office along with Anies Baswedan, former Minister of Education, and Agus Yudhoyono, the third son of former President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

More than 27,000 security personnel were deployed in the capital to prevent the sporadic protests, experienced during the election campaign, from becoming violent, although Jakarta reported no protests by mid-morning.

On the same day, municipal elections were also held in seven other provinces, 17 cities and for 76 district leaders, including in the semi-autonomous province of Aceh in northern Sumatra, and in the eastern region of Java island, among others.

The polling stations opened at 7 a.m. local time (0.00 GMT) and will close at 1.00 p.m. (6.00 GMT). The results will be announced in mid-March.

–IANS

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