JAKARTA: The Jakarta gubernatorial election is expected to be such a close race that political analysts have said the contest could go into a second round as there may not be a clear winner when voters go to the polls in February next year.
Three pairs of candidates had filed their nomination papers for Jakarta's top posts when registration closed on Friday (Sep 23). Each team of candidates is backed by several political heavyweights.
Political analysts expect incumbent governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama - better known as Ahok - and his deputy Djarot Saiful Hidayat to lead the race. But even though the pair remain the ticket to beat, it may not be enough for them to get a majority win.
"That is probably a likelihood, given the fact that you now have two reasonably high-profile candidates standing against Ahok,” said Paul Rowland, a technical advisor at Reformasi Weekly Review.
“The other thing to remember is that he’s got these high approval ratings in the absence of a campaign, and in the absence of declared candidates. Now that we have declared candidates, new polls will have to be taken. I think it’s going to be a much more interesting race than what we anticipated a few months ago," he added.
Former education minister Anies Baswedan is seen as a strong contender for governor with good electability based on recent polls. His running mate is businessman Sandiaga Uno, and the pair are backed by Gerindra chairman Prabowo Subianto, who lost the 2014 presidential election.
While Mr Anies' candidacy was not a surprise, many did not expect the nomination of Agus Harimurti Yudhoyono as Jakarta's governor. He is paired with Sylviana Murni, an experienced bureaucrat. The 38-year-old is the eldest son of former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who is the chairman of the Democratic Party.
Another former president, Megawati Sukarnoputri, has endorsed the incumbent pair through the ruling Indonesian Democratic Party - Struggle (PDI-P).
A HINT AT INDONESIA’S FUTURE LEADER
Even though candidates are backed by political heavyweights, one analyst believes voters will also look at the programmes candidates can offer.
"A good leader can be seen from the programmes that have been implemented or the promises he has delivered,” said Anung Baskoro, an analyst at Poltracking Indonesia. “If this can be answered well by anyone, whether it's Ahok or not, automatically the people will choose that candidate."
There are a total of 101 provinces, regencies and municipalities involved in the simultaneous regional election next year. However, political observers have said the Jakarta gubernatorial election is the most closely watched, not only because it is happening in the capital of Indonesia, but because it is a barometer of national politics and its potential impact on the next presidential election.
Said Jayadi Hanan, executive director of Saiful Mujani Research and Consulting. "We had a very strong precedent in 2012 when Jokowi ran for Jakarta’s election, and he won it, and two years later he became the nominee for the presidential election in Indonesia. There is no doubt that whoever wins the election of Jakarta governorship will affect in a way the competition for the next 2019 election.”
Political analysts believe political parties are preparing the ground early for the next presidential election. They said that whoever becomes Jakarta’s governor could very well be a candidate for the country's top job in three years' time.