Out to set record straight

The next presidential election may be two years away, but political parties have begun their hunt for prospective candidates.

One frontrunner is Dr Anies Baswedan (pic), the 53-year-old governor of Jakarta who will end his five-year term on Oct 16.

He has consistently ranked top three in recent electability polls, and the latest feather in his cap came last month in the form of public endorsement from NasDem party, one of the seven in the ruling coalition.

“NasDem has named me as one of its potential candidates. I appreciate that,” Anies said.

He declined to elaborate, and understandably so, given that it is still early days in the political horse trading for the election in Feb 2024.

As his political star continues to rise, Anies appears determined to set the record straight on the public perception that he had participated in identity politics and pandered to religious hardliners to win the 2017 gubernatorial election.

“Sometimes I am being judged by assumption. And during the campaign in 2017, the only way to judge someone is by assumption,” he said.

Anies had defeated Chinese-Christian incumbent Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, popularly known as Ahok, in a campaign widely reported by the media as divisive and fraught with religious and ethnic tensions.

Ahok was subsequently jailed for blasphemy for insulting Islam during a pre-election speech in 2016.

Anies, meanwhile, was left with a dent to his image as a moderate and progressive Muslim as doubts surfaced over whether he had turned his back on minorities for political gains.

He chose to keep mum and shun interviews with foreign media for a few years, saying “the best way to clarify, to correct is not by making another statement”, and preferring instead to let his actions during his tenure speak for themselves.

“Can you show me policies or actions in the past four years that are unfriendly to the minorities, that are not providing equal opportunities?” he said.

“If you cannot show me those policies, then you should delete this assumption and revise it based on reality.”

While he had grown up in a pious Muslim family in Yogyakarta, Central Java, his parents had given him a Western education.

The former university rector and education and culture minister boasts a PhD in political science from Northern Illinois University, and a Master’s Degree in public management from the University of Maryland.

His education proved to be an advantage when he became Jakarta governor and found himself “in the driver’s seat of a city that is extremely diverse”.

“I really like that every policy that is made in our city is a policy that reflects our Constitution, that reflects our values of modern democracy,” he added. — The Straits Times/ANN

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