Who is he?
Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama was the regent of East Belitung, Indonesia from 2005 to 2010 and a member of the country’s House of Representatives from 2009 to 2012. He built a reputation of strict but efficient leadership during his tenure and in 2007 won the national anticorruption figure award.
Joko “Jokowi” Widodo, then the mayor of Surakarta, selected Ahok as his running mate in the 2012 Jakarta gubernatorial elections in a move that consolidated support from the Gerindra party of former general Prabowo Subianto and the Indonesia Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), led by former president Megawati Sukarnoputri. Both Prabowo and Megawati are likely contenders for the 2014 presidential elections.
Jokowi and Ahok carried a surprising lead in the initial round of voting, and beat incumbent Fauzi Bowo in the September 20 runoff election. Given Jokowi and Ahok’s reform minded reputations, their election was seen as an indictment of corruption and entrenched elites in Jakarta politics. Ahok was inaugurated October 16 as deputy governor.
Why is he in the news?
Only a month into office, Ahok has confronted key issues related to traffic congestion, labor, and the bureaucracy. He successfully mediated a minimum wage increase, proposed incentives for street vendors to move to specified markets in order to reduce congestion, launched surprise inspections of government offices, and proposed installing closed circuit televisions to improve accountability.
Ahok’s “double minority” background has made him a target of the hardliner Islamic Defenders Front (FPI). The group called for the revision of the Jakarta constitution to remove some of the deputy governor’s responsibilities for government-affiliated Islamic organizations. Jokowi quickly ameliorated the tensions by promising a revision of Ahok’s responsibilities.
What can we expect from him?
The isolation of groups such as FPI suggests that party politics rather than ethnic-religious issues will determine Ahok and Jokowi’s success. The pair is eager to take advantage of their political capital.
While the small number of parliamentary seats held by their primary backers, PDI-P and Gerindra, could limit Ahok and Jokowi’s success, their popularity might dissuade former governor Fauzi’s supporters in the ruling coalition from retaliating against the newly elected administration. Ahok and Jokowi will likely leverage popular support for large-scale reform. In so doing, the pair will attempt to avoid transactional politics associated with past administrations and preserve their political outsider images.