TIME indonesia

Indonesia Reaches Racial Milestone With Chinese Governor of Jakarta

Basuki Tjahaja Purnama
Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, with his wife Veronica Tan, poses prior to taking the oath of office to become the governor of Indonesia's capital Jakarta on Nov. 19, 2014 Tatan Syuflana—AP

For the first time in 50 years, a non-Muslim will be calling the shots in Indonesia's capital city

Sixteen years after anti-Chinese riots wreaked havoc in the Indonesian capital, newly installed President Joko Widodo has inaugurated an ethnic Chinese politician as Jakarta’s new governor.

Joko held the position until he became President. The appointment of his onetime deputy Basuki Tjahaja Purnama as successor is seen as a significant shift in Indonesian politics. The Christian politician, whose brash and combative style of leadership has earned him many supporters as well as detractors, is the first ethnic Chinese to fill the role.

In interviews, Basuki, popularly known by his Hakka nickname Ahok, recalled how during the disturbances of 1998 he and his family joined neighbors in the predominantly Chinese district of Pluit to defend their lives and property, using sticks, Molotov cocktails and machetes.

But his political rise marks a watershed in ethnic and religious tolerance in Indonesia, which has the world’s biggest Muslim population. The last time Jakarta was led by a minority governor was from 1964 to ’65, when then President Sukarno appointed a Christian artist, Henk Ngantung, to the job.

Religion and ethnicity can still be hot topics in Indonesian politics. During the presidential election earlier this year, Joko’s popularity was hit by smear campaigns that falsely accused him of being both a Christian and of ethnic Chinese descent.

The hard-line Islamic Defenders Front, or FPI, has also staged violent protests opposing Basuki, saying Muslims should only be led by Muslims.

However, the mainstream Muslim population appears to be indifferent toward Basuki’s religious background. Nadhlatul Ulama (NU), Indonesia’s largest Islamic mass organization, is giving support to him. “As long as he is just and siding with the people, he is our governor,” said NU chairman Saiq Aqil Siradj last week. Leaders should be judged based on their honesty and dedication, he added, “not religion.”

Basuki, 48, became known nationwide after YouTube videos of him berating incompetent city officials went viral. Similar clips of other local leaders admonishing their subordinates have surfaced and been shared widely since then. But the new governor faces a mounting challenge in administering a city that is plagued by traffic gridlock and massive flooding problems.

TIME Hong Kong

Not Just Sex Workers: Here’s What We Know About the Hong Kong Murder Victims

Hong Kong Women Killed
In this Nov. 3, 2014, file photo, a high-rise apartment building, foreground center left, where two women were found in a flat rented by British banker Rurik Jutting, stands among other buildings in Wan Chai district in Hong Kong Vincent Yu—AP

The media has been quick to describe as "prostitutes" the two dead women found in the Hong Kong apartment of British banker Rurik Jutting. The truth isn't that simple, and one victim may not have been a sex worker at all

The arrest of young British banker Rurik Jutting, who was charged last weekend with killing two women in Hong Kong, has drawn the world’s attention to the city’s darker side, with current and former financiers coming forward with breathless confessionals of cocaine-fueled nights and easy sex.

But all of that is a world apart from the lives of the two victims — young Indonesian women brutally murdered just days apart in the district of Wan Chai, where posh apartment buildings, like Jutting’s, sit in uneasy proximity to topless bars and sleazy nightclubs.

Both Sumarti Ningsih, 23, and Seneng Mujiasih, 28, first arrived in Hong Kong to work as domestic helpers. They were among hundreds of thousands of Southeast Asians in the city — mostly Thai, Filipina and Indonesian women — who work to support their families back home, or to fulfill a modest dream like building a house or saving for a small business.

Sumarti, from Cilacap, a town in southern Java, was a single mother with only a primary school education, but described as “very thoughtful and smart” by her mother Suratmi, 49. Her parents, who are farmers, tell TIME that she worked as a nanny when she was 18, shortly after she left her husband and gave birth to a baby boy in 2009. Life was a struggle.

“She said she didn’t have enough to eat when she lived with her husband,” her mother tells TIME.

Two years later, in 2011, she went to Hong Kong, leaving her son in the care of her parents. She worked as a domestic helper, managing to send around $250 home every month. That’s more than twice what a girl without much education can expect to make in Java working as, say, a shop assistant or in some similar role.

After working as a domestic helper, Sumarti found a job — illegally — in a Hong Kong restaurant as a waitress. Then she returned to Cilacap in 2013.

She wasn’t there for long. Back in Indonesia, she took a DJ course, and then traveled to Hong Kong at least twice more, staying for months at a time. The most recent, and the last, visit began in August, when she arrived on a tourist visa. On each visit, Sumarti returned to the same restaurant to make money for her son’s education and her parents’ daily living expenses.

Other Indonesian women in Hong Kong take on similar work, particularly those who overstay their domestic-helper visas.

One such overstayer was the second victim, Seneng Mujiasih. Her family lives in Indonesia’s Southeastern Sulawesi province, and she began working as a domestic helper in Hong Kong some years ago, but her contract was terminated in 2011 by her employer.

Finding a new employer meant paying large sums — the equivalent to many months of wages — to an employment agency. Instead, Seneng, known as Jesse Lorena to her friends, chose to stay on and work illegally in Hong Kong, taking on whatever job she could find.

“She wanted to save money to build a house for her mother,” says Eni Lestari, an adviser with the Association of Indonesian Migrant Workers in Hong Kong, who spoke with the victim’s friend. Seneng is said to have lived in a cheap boarding house not far from Jutting’s luxury apartment building, J Residence, where the rent on a 350-sq.-ft. flat costs around $2,800 per month — seven times a domestic helper’s wage.

There are around 6.5 million Indonesians working overseas, sending home $7.4 billion of remittances last year. Many of these migrant workers are women working as domestic helpers in the Middle East and East Asia. Almost half of Hong Kong’s 320,000 domestic workers are from Indonesia.

Although the city offers legal protection to domestic workers, including a mandatory minimum wage and days off, rights activists blame draconian immigration restrictions and Indonesia’s employment regulations for making the women vulnerable to abuse and exploitation.

Newcomers incur huge debts to employment agencies. In a case that shocked the world, Erwiana Sulistyaningsih was tortured for months by her employer before she was sent home emaciated and disfigured in January. Despite her plea for help, her agency had refused to intervene because she still owed them money.

Strapped for cash, mired in debt or simply wishing to earn more, some migrant workers, including overstayers like Seneng, take on other kinds of work, from other cleaning jobs to washing dishes or waitressing in restaurants or, in a comparatively few cases, selling sex. Sometimes they do all of the above, moving fluidly between the lives of sex worker, migrant worker and illegal alien.

In interviews with Indonesian-language media, Seneng’s friends said she had been an occasional sex worker. Sumarti’s mother believes that her daughter was not. “I believe she actually worked, and was not doing anything bad,” she tells TIME. “I know my own daughter. She said she worked in a restaurant, and when I called her, she said she worked from early morning to late in the evening.”

Eni slams the media for quickly and pruriently painting the women as mere prostitutes. “We should understand that nobody come here to work illegally or do an immoral job,” she tells TIME. “They are forced by circumstances to do so.”

Unfortunately, those same circumstances persist for millions of Indonesian women. Every day, at Hong Kong’s glittering international airport, more arrive, with the modest aim of earning enough to feed and house their families.

Sumarti was due to pass through the same airport on her way home on Nov. 2. Instead, back in Cilacap, her grieving parents are now waiting for her body.

“Right now I only wait for the return of my daughter’s body as soon as possible,” says her mother. “I am very shocked, and cannot accept it. Whoever did it to my daughter has to get the heaviest punishment.”

Read next: How to Spot a Sex-Trafficking Victim at a Hotel

TIME indonesia

Indonesia’s New President Appoints a Cabinet of Compromise

INDONESIA-POLITICS-CABINET
Indonesian President Joko Widodo, center, adjusts his cap next to Vice President Jusuf Kalla, front right, and surrounded by members of his new Cabinet at the presidential palace in Jakarta on Oct. 27, 2014 Adek Berry—AFP/Getty Images

Joko “Jokowi” Widodo was elected on a mandate of change but must now work within political realities

Indonesia’s President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo — the first Indonesian from outside the military and political elite to hold the country’s top job — has unveiled the Cabinet that will help him run the world’s fourth most populous nation for the next five years.

However, while the new leader has touted himself as a harbinger of change, his Cabinet includes several figures that reflect compromise and the reality of political patronage, suggesting that the wunderkind of Indonesian politics may need to temper the expectations of voters.

The market appeared unimpressed, with the Jakarta Composite Index falling 0.6% on early Monday afternoon, and the rupiah changing little, Bloomberg reported.

On a positive note, he made his appointments in conjunction with the Corruption Eradication Commission (known by its Bahasa Indonesia initials of KPK) and the Financial Transaction Reports and Analysis Center (PPATK), the anti-money-laundering agency — a step forward in a nation beset by graft.

“I selected the ministers carefully and meticulously,” he said. “That’s important because this Cabinet will work for the next five years, and we want the chosen people to be clean figures, hence our consultations with the KPK and the PPATK.”

The antigraft commission rejected eight of the candidates submitted by Jokowi, forcing him to find last-minute replacements.

Besides technocrats and newcomers, the 34-strong lineup, which was sworn in Monday, includes clients of his party’s chairwoman Megawati Sukarnoputri and politicians from other coalition parties.

With Jokowi holding no leadership position in his own party (the Indonesian Democratic Party–Struggle, or PDI-P), and having to rely on coalition partners, appointments from within the political establishment are inevitable if disappointing to some.

“Realistically speaking, Jokowi can’t be fully independent from the political parties’ push and pull,” says Metta Dharmasaputra, executive director of Jakarta-based business research company KataData.

Reducing costly fuel subsidies and lifting economic growth are among the monumental tasks awaiting the new President. His choice to appoint experienced technocrats, such as the Coordinating Minister for Economics Sofyan Djalil and Finance Minister Bambang Brodjonegoro, to key economic posts has won praise. He has also picked a technocrat and anticorruption activist, Sudirman Said, to lead the graft-ridden Energy Ministry.

Signaling his commitment to a more religiously tolerant Indonesia, Jokowi retained the incumbent Religious Affairs Minister, Lukman Hakim Saifuddin, a moderate and highly respected Muslim politician.

Eight female ministers were appointed to the 34-strong Cabinet — a record number. For the first time in history, Indonesia has a female Foreign Minister, Retno Marsudi, who was ambassador to the Netherlands until recently. Indonesia also has a female Forestry and Environment Minister, Siti Nurbaya Bakar, a Nasdem Party politician. The appointments have been hailed by women’s activists, but political analyst Philips Vermonte, of the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Jakarta, said in a tweet, “This is quantity, not quality.”

The public and analysts are also less than impressed with the inclusion of Megawati loyalists in the Cabinet (two of whom are women): her daughter Puan Maharani; her former Trade Minister, Rini Soemarno; and her former army chief, retired general Ryamizard Ryacudu, who is known for his hard-line views on separatist conflicts and who was barred from traveling to the U.S. after his troops were implicated in killings of two American citizens in Papua in 2002.

Puan has been made Coordinating Minister of Human Development and Culture, a senior post, despite her having no experience in administration. Meanwhile, critics have long rejected Rini, the new State-Owned Enterprises Minister, on account of her alleged implication in several scandals, including the Bank of Indonesia Liquidity Assistance (BLBI) case, and a furor over the purchase of Sukhoi fighter jets.

The BLBI scandal revolves around the fate of $71 billion of Bank Indonesia bailout funds given to banks affected by the 1997–98 financial crisis; misuse of the funds led to huge state losses that threatened to bankrupt the central bank. The KPK questioned Rini as a witness last year because it was believed she knew about the so-called “release and discharge” documents that were given to some debtors even though they didn’t fulfill their obligations. In the Sukhoi scandal, she allegedly ordered the State Logistics Agency chief to make a $193 million deal to purchase from Russia four Sukhoi jets and two Mi-35 helicopters, which was outside his jurisdiction, and without involving parliament.

“Jokowi is spreading the patronage around among his coalition,” says Aaron Connelly, Indonesia analyst and research fellow of the East Asia program at the Lowy Institute for International Policy in Sydney.

Megawati isn’t the only political figure to have foisted her people on Jokowi. An acolyte of Vice President Jusuf Kalla’s, from his hometown in South Sulawesi, was given the agriculture portfolio.

Some foresee difficulties ahead. Indonesia’s diplomats and defense officials have not traditionally seen eye to eye. With Megawati’s military man Ryamizard as Defense Minister, and Jokowi’s choice of a career diplomat like Retno (who is said not to be very familiar with the military) as Foreign Minister, Connelly says the antipathy will continue and two ministries are likely to “struggle to get on the same page.”

TIME indonesia

Indonesians Outraged by the Scrapping of Elections for Mayors and Governors

INDONESIA-POLITICS-ELECTION
Indonesian activists and students chant during a protest against a new bill on local elections outside the parliament building in Jakarta on Sept. 25, 2014 Adek Berry—AFP/Getty Images

The move by an outgoing parliament is seen as a blow to democracy and a bid to undermine President-elect Joko Widodo

The Indonesian parliament voted to scrap direct elections for regional office-bearers early Friday — a decision that critics say is a step backward for democracy in the world’s fourth most populous nation and biggest Muslim-majority country.

When Indonesians woke up to the news, many reacted with anger and fury. “A Democratic Betrayal,” read the Jakarta Globe headline on Friday.

It was former presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto’s Gerindra Party, and his Red-White Coalition partners, that pushed to have district chiefs, mayors and governors indirectly voted in by local parliaments, as they were in 2005. Under the new legislation, governors from Prabowo’s coalition, which controls 31 out of 34 provincial legislatures, are expected to dominate the country.

The bill was passed just days before the current lawmakers end their term on Sept. 30, and weeks before Jakarta Governor Joko “Jokowi” Widodo is inaugurated as President on Oct. 20.

Supporters of the move say direct elections are expensive and rife with fraud — a point dismissed by opponents, including Corruption Eradication Commission officials, who say indirect elections invite even more corruption.

The initiative is seen not only as an attempt by Prabowo — who lost the July election to Jokowi but has yet to congratulate him — to undermine his rival even before he resumes office, but also as a bid by the widely distrusted political elite, of which Prabowo is a leading figure, to wrest power from ordinary people.

“Society will need to be prepared for leaders who are going to obey local parliaments more than they serve the people,” says Titi Anggraini, executive director of Perludem, an NGO focusing on elections-related advocacy.

Much of the anger is directed at outgoing President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, widely known by his initials SBY. He and his Democratic Party, which controls nearly a third of the parliamentary seats, said they would support direct elections. But, in the end, many Democrat lawmakers absented themselves from the voting when their demands for revisions were not meant, dealing a blow to Jokowi’s coalition and allowing the bill to pass.

The hashtag #ShameOnYouSBY was the top trending topic in Indonesia, and worldwide, on Friday. “Congratulations Pak @SBYudhoyono – now you have a legacy as the President who let democracy move backwards,” said Ima Abdulrahim, executive director of the Jakarta-based think tank the Habibie Center, on Twitter.

“Two generals have killed our democracy: Prabowo and SBY,” tweeted Luthfi Assyaukanie, of the Freedom Institute think tank, referring to the fact that both men are former military officers.

Yudhoyono later told journalists in Washington, D.C., where he is on a state visit, that he was “disappointed with the process and the result.”

Direct elections have been credited with the emergence of popular and untainted regional leaders who are not party oligarchs. It has given rise to humble politicians like Jokowi, who began his career as the mayor of the Javanese city of Solo; his deputy governor, Basuki T. Purnama; Ridwan Kamil, mayor of the nation’s third largest city, Bandung; Ganjar Pranowo, governor of Central Java; and Tri Rismaharini, mayor of Indonesia’s second city, Surabaya. All of them have opposed indirect elections, with Basuki even quitting Prabowo’s Gerindra Party over the issue.

“Do you know that with indirect elections, all of the regional leaders are practically under the instruction of the political elite in Jakarta?” tweeted Ridwan. He and other regional heads vow to challenge the legislation in the Constitutional Court. Perludem has promised the same.

TIME indonesia

With the Election of Joko Widodo, Indonesia Writes a New Chapter

INDONESIA-ELECTION
Indonesian President-elect Joko Widodo gestures after delivering his victory address in Jakarta's port district of Sunda Kelapa on July 22, 2014 Romeo Gacad—AFP/Getty Images

For the first time, the world's biggest Muslim-majority nation, and third biggest democracy, has an Everyman for President

Indonesians woke up Wednesday morning to something completely new: a President who did not hail from the political or military elite.

The previous evening, the country’s electoral commission, the KPU, declared the governor of Jakarta, Joko Widodo — popularly known as Jokowi — President-elect of the world’s biggest Muslim-majority nation and third biggest democracy. After a highly polarized campaign, Jokowi and his running mate, Jusuf Kalla, won more than 53% of the vote, or some 8 million more votes than their rivals, former general Prabowo Subianto and his No. 2, Hatta Rajasa.

Unlike many established figures who dominate the political arena, the 53-year-old Jokowi came from a humble provincial background: he grew up in a riverside slum in Solo, Central Java, and does not have ties to an influential family. After a career as a furniture entrepreneur, he started in politics as mayor of his hometown less than a decade ago — and this rapid rise, along with the level of electoral enthusiasm and volunteerism his candidacy generated, has invited comparisons to U.S. President Barack Obama (the two were even born in the same year). Many see Jokowi’s win as an augury for a more mature era in Indonesian politics.

“His candidacy would have been improbable just a few years ago,” says Aaron Connelly, East Asia research fellow at the Lowy Institute in Sydney, who focuses on Indonesian politics. “This has not historically been a country in which parents told their children that they could grow up to become President.”

The bitterly contested presidential election also marks the first time that social media and the Internet played a major role in overseeing the electoral process. Taking advantage of the raw data that the KPU released on its site, concerned citizens set up websites to monitor the counting. One such site is Kawal Pemilu, or Guard the Election. Hurriedly built by Singapore-based IT consultant Ainun Najib and a couple of Indonesian programmers working for a Silicon Valley company, it was an instant hit, showing the official vote recapitulation, updated every 10 minutes by volunteers, of which there were around 700. “We wanted to fulfill the calls to guard the election by showing the data openly,” Ainun tells TIME.

With this level of openness and scrutiny, the election is being hailed as Indonesia’s most transparent and democratic. But that hasn’t stopped the loser from complaining that the poll has been “defective.” Prabowo, a former general with a tainted human-rights record, has refused to concede defeat. He initially called for the public to wait for the official count, but as it became clear the victory wasn’t his, he began attacking the KPU, accusing it of not properly investigating what he alleged was massive vote fraud — an accusation the commission has rebutted. On Tuesday afternoon, hours before the KPU’s announcement, he declared that he would not accept the official tally. His decision was widely derided by citizens and legal experts alike. (“The Indonesian people are grateful because we have escaped from the catastrophe of having a heavily stressed-out presidential candidate [as leader],” one Twitter user said.)

On Wednesday, Prabowo’s team says they would challenge the result in the Constitutional Court. Already, however, there are signs that his coalition is falling apart. During the past two press conferences on Sunday and Tuesday, in which Prabowo lambasted the KPU, running mate Hatta was conspicuously absent.

The victor, meanwhile, has been basking in congratulations. In his midnight victory speech on Tuesday, delivered at Sunda Kelapa, Jakarta’s old port, Jokowi said, “This presidential election has given rise to new optimism for us, for this nation … It is time for us to move together.” Stirring stuff, but winning the election, it must be said, was the easiest task on Jokowi’s list. Now comes the hard part — of governing a sprawling archipelago of 18,300 islands that has emerged, blinking, into democratic daylight.

TIME Malaysia

Anger, Agony and Disbelief as Malaysians Awake to News of MH17

Malaysia Malaysia Airlines
An electronic board displays "Pray for MH17" at the departure hall of Kuala Lumpur International Airport on July 18, 2014 Joshua Paul—AP

First a jet vanishes over the Indian Ocean. Now this

Updated: July 18, 2014, at 02:25 ET

Malaysians are reacting with shock and anguish to the crash of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 in Ukraine. The Boeing 777 was traveling from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur and crashed in an area controlled by pro-Russia rebels — just months after the mysterious disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370.

“The Ukrainian authorities believe that the plane was shot down,” said Prime Minister Najib Razak in a statement. “At this early stage, however, Malaysia is unable to verify the cause of this tragedy. But we must — and we will — find out precisely what happened to this flight. No stone can be left unturned.”

There were 283 passengers and 15 crew aboard Flight 17. Of those, 154 people were from the Netherlands. There were also 27 from Australia, 43 from Malaysia (including the crew and two infants), 12 from Indonesia (including another infant) and others from Europe, the Philippines and Canada, according to a statement posted Thursday by Malaysia Airlines.

The Associated Press (AP) reports that distressed relatives have gathered at Kuala Lumpur International Airport to await news of family members. In between sobs, Akmar Mohamad Noor told AP that her older sister was on the flight, returning to Malaysia to celebrate Eid with the family for the first time in 30 years.

“She called me just before she boarded the plane and said, ‘See you soon,'” Akmar said.

There are reports that furious relatives waited for hours at the airport, unable to speak to officials from Malaysia Airlines and prevented from entering operational areas by security guards.

“We have been waiting for four hours. We found out the news from international media. The Facebook is more efficient than MAS,” one man said to waiting media.

Malaysian news outlet the Star gave blanket coverage to the crash Thursday morning, but, seeking a human dimension to the tragedy, most readers were drawn to a simple, poignant story on the worried messages left by colleagues on the Facebook page of cabin attendant Angeline Premila, believed to have been on the downed flight.

The Malaysian Insider reported on the extraordinary fate of cabin crew member Sanjid Singh, who reportedly swapped shifts so that he could be aboard Flight 17. Months earlier, his wife, also a Malaysia Airlines cabin crew member, had swapped out of the now vanished Flight 370 at the last minute, saving her life.

News site Astro Awani also carried news of the families of other crew members. Relatives of flight 17’s chief steward, Mohd. Ghaffar Abu Bakar, 54, said they heard the news on TV. The father of cabin attendant Nur Shazana Mohamed Salleh was unaware his daughter, 31, was aboard Flight 17 until informed by her friends late on Thursday evening. “She had asked us to send a photo of her nephew … She sounded cheerful,” he told journalists regarding his last communication with her on July 16.

Meanwhile, the Malaysian Twitterverse is abuzz with the news about the crash. “Following the uproar over the disappearance of MH 370, now [we are] shocked by MH17 that crashed in Ukraine. Oh God,” said @tracy_elcia, writing in Bahasa Malaysia.

Many users were in disbelief with the two successive tragedies that befall the country. “My dear God. The MH370 case is not finished, the MH17 case arrives. #PrayForMH17 #PrayForMH370,” said @apizshahh.

In the deeply religiously Muslim-majority country, some Twitter users turned to God for consolation. “Nightmare?? Only Allah knows what was happening.. #prayforMH17,” said @mohdzarulhiqmi.

TIME indonesia

The World’s Third Biggest Democracy Is in Political Limbo

INDONESIA-ELECTION
Supporters of Indonesian presidential candidate Joko Widodo rally in central Jakarta after the close of polls on July 9, 2014 ROMEO GACAD—AFP/Getty Images

Indonesia's highly polarized presidential election ends in a close call. The country must wait at least until final results are declared on July 22 to know the shape of its political future

Both candidates in Indonesia’s highly polarized presidential election have claimed victory.

Initial counts by early evening on Wednesday gave the populist governor of Jakarta, Joko Widodo, popularly known as Jokowi, around 52% of the vote. His rival, former army general Prabowo Subianto, received about 48%.

Official results are not expected until July 22, meaning that the world’s third largest democracy — and most populous Muslim nation — will be in political limbo for the next two weeks. Outgoing President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has appealed for both sides to show restraint and not to celebrate with mass rallies until the General Elections Commission releases the final tally.

Nevertheless, Jokowi supporters celebrated what they consider his victory with a huge gathering at the Welcome Statue in Jakarta’s central business district and a smaller one at the Proclamation Monument in downtown Jakarta before the breaking of the Ramadan fast on Wednesday night. The latter site, where the country’s founding fathers Sukarno and Mohammad Hatta declared independence, is an emotive one for Indonesians. “Today a new history has been made, a new chapter for Indonesia,” Jokowi told the crowd that had gathered there. “This is a victory for the people of Indonesia.”

In a bid to defuse tensions, President Yudhoyono, whose party endorses Prabowo, met the two candidates at his private home outside Jakarta on Wednesday night. At the center of contention are the polling firms — almost a dozen of them — that have done the quick counts, since many pollsters are known to be either affiliated with or even held on retainer by different candidates. However, political analysts say the half-dozen or so firms that give Jokowi a lead not only show a similar margin of victory for him, but also correctly predicted the results of the legislative elections in April.

“We can safely conclude that the quick counts from CSIS, SMRC and others predicting a Jokowi victory are right,” said Aaron Connelly, East Asia fellow at the Sydney-based Lowy Institute for International Policy, who focuses on Indonesia’s politics. In contrast, he says, quick counts that give Prabowo victory “are all over the place, which suggests they have been manipulated to produce a certain result.”

In a blow to the credibility of Prabowo’s camp, an executive at polling firm Poltracking Institute said on Wednesday night that in order to “maintain professionalism” the firm had canceled its agreement to work with tvOne — a station owned by Prabowo backer and Golkar Party chairman Aburizal Bakrie.

Poltracking’s results put Jokowi as the winner, but tvOne and other stations owned by Prabowo’s coalition supporters — like Hary Tanoesoedibjo’s RCTI and Global TV — have only broadcast quick counts from pollsters that give Prabowo victory.

It is unlikely that Prabowo (who said in an interview that “losing is not an option”) will concede anytime soon — even, says Connelly, “if it would be better for stability, the markets and the country’s welfare.” If Prabowo is still unhappy with the electoral commission’s official count later this month, he could challenge it in the Constitutional Court. That means Indonesia won’t know for sure who its next leader is until late August.

In the meantime, the situation remains fraught. With paramilitary groups like the Pancasila Youth and the Islamic Defenders Front supporting Prabowo’s presidential bid, there are fears that a hitherto peaceful election process could degenerate into violence.

“I pray whoever loses will behave like a statesman and accept his defeat because elections are the people’s voice,” said pro-Jokowi activist Nong Darol Mahmada on Twitter.

TIME indonesia

The World’s Most Populous Muslim Nation Is About to Decide Its Political Future

Indonesia's polarizing presidential race pits two hugely contrasting candidates and political philosophies against each other. The outcome could affect the future of the country's hard-won democracy

Indonesia’s presidential election, which has turned into a hotly contested two-horse race, has invited comparisons to famous epic battles, both fictional and historical. Netizens liken it to Bharatayudha — as the final, all-out war in the Hindu epic Mahabharata is known in the country. One political analyst called it “Indonesian Star Wars.” Amien Rais, former chairman of the 30 million-strong Islamic organization Muhammadiyah, brought up the analogy of the Prophet Muhammad’s Battle of Badr.

Hyperbolic they may be, but these comparisons nonetheless reflect how polarizing the July 9 poll has become. It has divided political parties, pitted friends against friends, parents against children, husbands against wives. “I’ve always considered marriage to be the primary cause of why most friendships end,” said one Twitter user. “And then along came the 2014 presidential election.”

The two men vying to lead the country stand in stark contrast to each other, and make this a showdown between political outsider and political patrician. The outsider is Joko Widodo, 53, a onetime furniture entrepreneur who has charmed the public with his down-to-earth demeanor. Joko, popularly known as Jokowi, grew up poor, living in a riverside slum in Solo, Central Java. He cut his teeth in politics as mayor of Solo, where his blusukan (impromptu visits to constituents) and his push for clean governance set him apart from aloof officials in a country plagued with graft scandals. He even won recognition as one of the world’s best mayors. Riding on his immense popularity, Jokowi teamed up with a maverick Chinese-Christian politician to run in the Jakarta gubernatorial election in 2012 and won.

The patrician is Prabowo Subianto, 62, a former military general dogged by allegations of past human-rights abuses. Prabowo comes from a privileged background: his father, the late economist Sumitro Djojohadikusumo, was a minister under Indonesia’s first two Presidents, Sukarno and Suharto. His brother-in-law is a former central banker, while his brother, Hashim Djojohadikusumo, who bankrolls his presidential campaign, is a billionaire with a global business reach. Prabowo himself pursued a military career, and after marrying Suharto’s daughter (the two are now divorced), he quickly climbed up the ranks and took part in military operations battling rebels in East Timor and Irian Jaya. He went on to lead elite army units: the Special Forces and later the Army Strategic Reserve Command. His career ended abruptly after he was discharged from the military in 1998, months after Suharto’s fall, over his role in the abduction of pro-democracy activists.

Sixteen years after the fall of authoritarian strongman Suharto, the country with the world’s largest Muslim population (and Southeast Asia’s biggest economy) is a rare example of democratic reform. The election on Wednesday will usher in a new leader to replace the outgoing incumbent, and the country’s first directly elected leader, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (who cannot run again because he has served two terms). But more than that, the poll has become a vote for Indonesia’s future political direction.

On Saturday, speaking to tens of thousands of supporters at a free concert and rally organized by dozens of popular musicians, Jokowi said, “We gather here as part of a democracy that ensures participation of all people in determining the nation’s future, to respect human rights, fight for justice and maintain plurality and peace.” He talks the talk. His deputy mayor in Solo was a Catholic, and in Jakarta, he refused to give in to those protesting against the appointment of a Christian subdistrict head. He also champions pro-poor, populist economic policies.

In contrast, Prabowo, who portrays the image of a firm leader with his fiery speeches and antiforeign rhetoric, repeatedly speaks against Indonesia’s democratic process. In two separate events in late June, the former general said he would like to get rid of direct elections because they were the product of Western values and were breeding corruption. “Our version of democracy is very expensive,” he said. And while Prabowo says he is committed to freedom of religion, his party’s manifesto says that “the state is required to guarantee the purity of teachings of the religions acknowledged by the state,” and his campaign is backed by Islamic hard-liners. Though he often speaks out against corruption, his coalition includes figures tainted by graft allegations.

“This is no longer about a contest between two candidates — it is about the future of Indonesian democracy,” says Marcus Mietzner, an expert of Indonesian politics at the Australian National University, about the election. “A vote for Jokowi preserves the existing system, while a vote for Prabowo would send Indonesia onto a path of political uncertainty, conflict and democratic regression. The stakes have never been higher, and that’s why the polarization is at unprecedented levels as well.”

Also unprecedented are the smear tactics. While these have been used in previous elections, both local and foreign observers agree that the intensity and persistence of attacks on Jokowi are something never seen before. In tabloids like Obor Rakyat, which is widely distributed at mosques and Islamic boarding schools on Java, and in social media, Jokowi, who is Muslim and Javanese, is accused of being Christian, of Chinese descent and a communist. There are signs that these calumnies are hurting him. The front runner, who comfortably led opinion polls by over 20% to nearly 30% months ago, has seen the gap narrow to single digits in different opinion polls. Another factor is the highly efficient and effective party machinery behind Prabowo vs. the motley network of volunteers that Jokowi relies upon.

Nevertheless, “Indonesia’s Obama,” as Jokowi has been dubbed, has been making a last-minute spurt, thanks to a wave of Indonesian celebrities declaring their support for him, and his strong performance in the final presidential debate on July 5. Overseas stars have weighed in too — American singer Jason Mraz and Guns N’ Roses guitarist Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal have tweeted their support for Jokowi. Sting posted on his official Facebook page: “Use your rights — every vote counts #Jokowi9Juli.”

The percentage of undecided voters has shrunk to around 8%, according to one pollster, but they could still decide the outcome of one of the most crucial polls the country has seen — perhaps the most crucial poll. But at least it is a poll and not a Battle of Badr or a Bharatayudha. As the poet and essayist Goenawan Mohamad said: “Elections are the most peaceful way to choose a leader. Not all-out battles, as if there is no tomorrow.”

TIME

This Indonesian Nazi Video Is One of the Worst Pieces of Political Campaigning Ever

As the candidate who it was made for, Prabowo Subianto, once said, "Do I have the guts, am I ready to be called a fascist dictator?"

A music video made by several singers as a tribute to Indonesian presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto is causing outrage with its strong Nazi overtones.

In the video, an adaptation of the Queen classic “We Will Rock You,” musician Ahmad Dhani sports a fascist-style uniform and holds a golden Garuda — a mythical bird that is Indonesia’s emblem but which, against the black of his paramilitary attire, looks uncomfortably like the German imperial eagle that the Nazis incorporated into their iconography.

Bali-based filmmaker Daniel Ziv described the video as bringing “Nazi skinhead imagery to Indonesian politics.”

That turns out to be an apt description. German news magazine Der Spiegel pointed out that Dhani’s military costume is eerily similar to the uniform worn by SS commander Heinrich Himmler. “Dhani wears the same emblem on the lapel and the same red breast-pocket lining,” it said Tuesday, comparing the photos of the two in a photo gallery.

Brian May, Queen’s lead guitarist, has waded into the controversy, saying “of course this is completely unauthorised by us.”

Despite widespread criticism, including from fellow Indonesian musicians, Dhani, who is partly Jewish, is unrepentant. “What’s the connection between German soldiers and Indonesia?” was his baffling comment to Indonesian media Wednesday. “What’s the connection between German soldiers and Indonesian musicians? We, the Indonesian people, didn’t kill millions of Jewish people, right?”

As the July 9 election is approaching, the campaign has been heating up, with supporters of both presidential candidates using social media to appeal to the young, urban voters. Dhani’s music video for Prabowo was released shortly after pop musicians like Oppie Andaresta and rock band Slank, who support rival candidate Joko Widodo, made their own song and music video, titled “Two-Finger Salute.”

On his Facebook page on Friday, Prabowo thanked Dhani and other singers for their “contribution,” saying: “This video is boosting our fighting spirit!”

While the appeal of Nazi chic is not uncommon in Indonesia and elsewhere in Asia — a Nazi-themed café reopened in the Indonesian city of Bandung just days ago — it is particularly telling that fascist imagery has been used to drum up support for Prabowo, who was discharged from military in 1998 over the abduction of pro-democracy activists, and who is given to such strongman gestures as appearing at campaign rallies on horseback before an honor guard.

Over the weekend, American journalist Allan Nairn posted on his blog a 2001 interview, in which Prabowo said that Indonesia needed “a benign authoritarian regime.” The former general, who made clear his admiration toward Pakistan’s then ruling strongman Pervez Musharraf, told Nairn: “Do I have the guts, am I ready to be called a fascist dictator? Musharraf had the guts.”

Hopefully Indonesia won’t get a chance to find out.

— With reporting by Stephanie Burnett

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