from Asia Unbound

Is Indonesia, Once a Democratic Model, on the Road to Strongman Rule?

Jakarta's Christian governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, popularly known as Ahok, speaks to his lawyers after the guilty verdict in his blasphemy trial in Jakarta on May 9, 2017. (Bay Ismoyo/Pool/Reuters)

June 1, 2017

Jakarta's Christian governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, popularly known as Ahok, speaks to his lawyers after the guilty verdict in his blasphemy trial in Jakarta on May 9, 2017. (Bay Ismoyo/Pool/Reuters)
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One year ago, Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, known by his nickname, Ahok, was riding high. The governor of Jakarta, the capital of Indonesia and largest city, was widely popular, both for policies like crackdowns on graft and his no-nonsense style, uncommon in a country where high-handed, indirect politicians long had been the norm. Although he had been deputy governor and had inherited the job after the former Jakarta governor, Joko Widodo, ran for president, in early 2017 Ahok had an approval rating of roughly 70 percent, an enviable figure. He was indeed the overwhelming favorite to win the 2017 gubernatorial election, and was often mentioned as a future presidential candidate. After all, his predecessor as governor of the capital region, Widodo, had used his platform and his own practical style to position himself for the presidency.

Few have fallen so far in such a short period of time.

For more on my analysis of Ahok’s fall and the potentially worrying implications for Indonesia’s secular democracy, see my new piece in The National.

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