TEMPO.CO, Jakarta - NINE months after he was fired by President Joko Widodo as education and culture minister, Anies Rasyid Baswedan's star shone again. The quick count by the Jakarta General Election Commission (KPU) declared Anies, contender in the recent second round of the capital city's gubernatorial election, and his running mate, Sandiaga Salahuddin Uno, as the winners, defeating incumbent Basuki Tjahaja Purnama and his deputy, Djarot Saiful Hidayat. The Anies-Sandiaga ticket won with 3,240,057 votes (57.95 percent), while Basuki and Djarot got 2,351,141 votes (42.05 percent).
But there was a considerable cost to that victory: the polarization of the capital city as a result of a campaign marked by hate speeches. Anies and Sandiaga must now face accusations of embracing Islamic hard-line groups, despite their denials. "I only came once to the FPI (Islamic Defense Front) headquarters, but why do people conclude that I am close to them?" asked 47-year old Anies.
Last week, 48 hours after all polls concluded they had won the election, Anies and Sandiaga came to the Tempo office for an interview. In the final question-answer written up by journalists Reza Maulana and Raymundus Rikang, Anies and Sandiaga spoke up on a number of issues, from the Jakarta Bay reclamation, to their relationship with the Suharto family and their zero-down payment housing scheme that has drawn intense public criticism.
Now that the election is over, how do you plan to reunite the divided citizens of Jakarta?
Anies: We will continue doing what we have been doing…reaching out to all components of society. After all, we will be inaugurated as the governor and deputy-governer of all Jakarta residents, not just some of them. We are optimistic we will succeed because Indonesia has experienced similar polarizations following past elections.
In concrete terms, what will that be?
Sandiaga: We will ask (the assistance of) youths in the Indonesia Digital Hub to create a game or application with the theme of unity. I watched the movie Kartini along with the Basuki-Djarot supporters. Before coming here, I did my Friday prayers at the Al-Taqwa Mosque in Kebayoran Baru, south Jakarta. That mosque happens to be close to my home, yet over there we lost votes in both rounds. I spoke to the congregation and the atmosphere lightened up. It was a small gesture, but that's what is need to bring together Jakarta people. Action speaks louder than words.
Was reconciliation a subject you discussed at your meeting with Basuki last Thursday?
Anies: We discussed how our supporters can come together to build Jakarta for the next five years. Pak Ahok said, if leaders can discuss things, our supporters can do the same. That meeting also discussed Jakarta's budget. He proposed that my team and his team sit down to discuss how my programs can be included in the (current) budget. It was a truly open gesture on his part.
The public sees you as being close to the FPI. Is that true?
Anies: I visited the FPI headquarters only once (on January 1). Why is the media interpreting that meeting with my being close to them? If only the campaign had raised more issues on programs, this polarization would not have happened.
Sandiaga: I visited Protestant churches three times, but none of those meetings made the news.
The fact is that Prabowo Subianto thanked the FPI for their help in carrying Anies Sandiaga to victory.
Anies: All groups were given thanks. Perhaps that's what he meant.
The fact is that 21 FPI groups took part in your campaign, working all over Jakarta, so the public thinks you are close to Islamic groups.
Anies: I embraced not just Muslims, but also Catholics, Protestants, Hindus. Perhaps our rivals told people that Anies and Sandi were close only to Muslims. Yet, we reached out to all groups, those from the left, those from the right, the ones on top and those on the lower rungs. We chose diversity.
What about the results of exit polls by survey groups which stressed that your win was because of the Muslim vote?
Anies: Many factors determined our victory.
But the religious issue benefitted you?
Anies: If you look at the origin, religion was not an issue before the Thousand Islands incident (Ahok's speech which allegedly misquoted Al-Maida 51, on September last year). So, who used the issue of religions? We tried to build links with all groups.
Anies: I met with 44 parishes within the Jakarta diocese. But this never made the news. Would I needed to be there 2 times 24 hours for the event to become news?
So, did you gain by the perception that you are close to Islamic groups?
Anies: Those who associated me with right-wing groups was my rival.
How will you get rid of the stigma of being close to those intolerant groups?
Anies: This will need time. We must meet with all groups. In time, our work will be seen as reaching out to all groups. During the campaign, there were many intervention and time was short, and social media made the situation even murkier.
For example, what will you do if the FPI stops the construction of another religion's house of worship?
Anies: We will look at the rules. When a group wants to build a new mosque, I look at the laws, and the same goes for building churches. Besides, after officially becoming governor, we will not be ruling over left-wing, right-wing or moderate groups, but over all of Jakarta's citizenry. Also, we cannot accommodate anything that goes against the Constitution.
How will you guarantee that hate speeches against ethnic minorities like those during the campaign, will not be repeated?
Anies: Protection will be given not just for the for the minority or majority groups, but for all Indonesian citizens. You will not find the word 'minority' in the Constitution. The founders of this republic used the word 'groups' to mean diversity, meanwhile minority and majority refers to scale. We tend to be influence by discussions of Westerners on minority rights. If we applied minority rights, we wouldn't have so many holidays. That's why we use a scale, however small the number of supporters of the religion, they each get a holy day. (*)
Read the full interview in this week's edition of Tempo English Magazine