JAKARTA (Reuters) - The Indonesian capital’s deputy governor, Fauzi Bowo, was heading for a comfortable victory over a rival backed by a conservative Islamic party after early vote counting on Wednesday, in the first direct elections to control the city.
Voting for governor followed a campaign that threw a spotlight on the role of Islam in politics, corruption and a host of social and environmental problems in the sprawling, chaotic city of around 10 million.
Winning Jakarta is seen as an important scene-setter for parliamentary and presidential elections in 2009.
“I just want to have a better Jakarta. More jobs, no traffic jams, no floods,” said Suhendi, a middle-aged man who had just cast his vote in a polling station in West Jakarta.
Only two candidates were contesting the election.
Adang Daradjatun, a former deputy national police chief, is backed by the Justice and Prosperity Party (PKS).
The conservative Islamic party has pledged cleaner government, but has also raised questions over what exactly its Islamic agenda is in the world’s most populous Muslim country.
The young party has grown fast, securing 7.34 percent of the vote and 45 of the national parliament’s 550 seats in 2004.
His opponent Bowo is backed by a coalition of 19 parties, including leading national parties Golkar and the Indonesian Democratic Struggle Party.
Taxi driver Hasanudin said he voted for Bowo, despite his skepticism about the elections.
“I don’t think this election will change much, it’s just a game of politics anyway,” he said.
A sample, or “quick count” — in which a sample of the votes are tallied — conducted by the Indonesian Survey Institute, a private pollster, and Metro TV showed that Bowo was leading with about 57 percent of the vote. Daradjatun had 43 percent.
The poll should reflect final results with a margin of error of 1 percent, institute director Syaiful Mujani told Metro TV.
Early results released by the Provincial Election Commission supported the pollster’s finding, with Bowo comfortably in front on 57 percent. No turnout figure was given.
Official results are due in about a week.
During the two-week campaign, both parties appeared to rely on a traditional formula of throwing festive rallies, with popular singers, to draw crowds.
There was plenty of mud-slinging in the campaigns too.
Daradjatun rode on an anti-corruption ticket, accusing the current city administration of incompetence.
But Bowo, an urban planning specialist, says his years of experience in local government are a reason to vote for him.
Meanwhile, Bowo’s coalition has raised concerns that a Daradjatun victory could result in sharia-style laws for Jakarta, a view shared by some rights activists.
Daradjatun has dismissed this as a smear campaign and said he has no intention of, for example, shutting down legal nightspots in the lively city.
Most Indonesian Muslims, who make up 85 percent of the 220 million population, practice a moderate form of Islam, although some local governments have brought in sharia-style laws.
Additional reporting by Harry Suhartono