Jakarta’s incumbent Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama (Ahok) has conceded defeat in the race to become the city’s new governor. This is after unofficial quick count results showed a former Indonesian education minister, Baswedan taking the polls.
Analysts are divided on the cause of his defeat – with Western observers largely zeroing on the rise of Islamist sentiment in Indonesia. However, the rise of Islamist is part of the broader socio-political issue, which has impacted Ahok’s Governor post.
Despite his popularity with middle-class Jakartans for his efforts to stamp out corruption and make the overflowing polluted city more livable, his upfront manner and evictions of slum communities could have alienated many in the city of 10 million.
The final straw, which may have broken the camel’s back, came when he was perceived to have ridiculed a passage in the Holy Al-Quran. Though the recording itself is questionable, it has been widely circulated on Youtube prompting a broad backlash from Muslim community and religious conservatives.
Baswedan, a highly educated Muslim moderate, is seen to have capitalised on the backlash against Ahok by courting the support of conservative religious leaders and figures on the radical fringe who opposed electing a non-Muslim.
The ruling People’s Action Party has won Singapore’s most observed general elections in its fifty years and improved its vote share. This marked a significant gain for a party that had seen its popularity fade as some voters rejected its dominance just four years ago.
The PAP won 83 of 89 parliament seats, giving it a comfortable majority to govern for the next five years. The party’s share of the popular vote rose to 69.9% from a historic low of 60.1% at the last election in 2011, returning Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong to power.
However, it has been different for the Worker’s Party (WP) – one of Singapore’s leading oppositional voice since 2011.
Of the 28 seats that the WP contested in the 2015 General Election, it lost Punggol East Single Member Constituency (SMC), and retained Aljunied Group Representation Constituency (GRC) and Hougang SMC by narrower margins. WP secured Aljunied by a margin of less than two per cent, or 50.95 percent of the overall vote, falling from 54.72 percent when it made history by being the first-ever opposition party to win a GRC. Incumbent Png Eng Huat retained Hougang SMC with a 57.69 per cent vote share, a drop from 62.1 percent in the 2012 by-election that he won.
Though still in its early hours, PAP comeback may be attributed to the current economic situation. Local sentiment suggests the confidence level in PAP to steer Singapore away from the bleak economic climate holds higher than other alternative parties available. A few locals interviewed opined – there is a need for an uninterrupted progress and for PAP to continue its economic mitigation efforts.
Mr. Lee’s decision to call the early election appears also to have paid off. A poll conducted by local firm BlackBox in July indicated that Lee Kuan Yew’s death had contributed to a significant increase in overall satisfaction in the government’s performance: 80% of voters polled in March, the month Mr. Lee died, said they were satisfied with government performance, compared with 72% to 76% in each month of the previous year.
In the hindsight, the latest election result also meant PAP has quashed Singapore’s opposition parties ambition to create a stronger opposing voice in a country dominated by one political faction.