The West Kalimantan Election and the Impact of the Anti-Ahok Campaign

(Jakarta, 21 February 2018) West Kalimantan’s election for governor on 27 June 2018 will be a contest between candidates divided by religion and ethnicity, exacerbated by the fallout from Jakarta politics, but local observers say the risk of violence is overstated. Local officials and community leaders should still work out a strategy that identifies potential flashpoints and anticipates scenarios that could lead to localised communal clashes so that preventive measures are in place as campaigning gets underway.  

The West Kalimantan Election and the Impact of the Anti-Ahok Campaign, the latest report from the Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict (IPAC), looks at the candidate slates and how they emerged, with the two strongest representing Dayaks and Muslims respectively. It also examines the influence in the province of the Islamist movement in late 2016 that led to the imprisonment of Ahok, Jakarta’s Christian governor on blasphemy charges.

“In fact, the trouble-makers are concentrated in a few locations, and the ethnic and religious divides are more fluid than often depicted,” says Deka Anwar, IPAC analyst. “Still, West Kalimantan’s history of communal violence and recent tensions between Dayaks and Malays mean that local officials will have to be extra-vigilant to ensure everything stays peaceful.”

The report examines the political backgrounds and ethnic affiliations of the three candidate slates:

  • Karolin Natasa and Suryadman Gidot, backed by PDIP and Partai Demokrat. Both are Dayaks and represent the Dayak customary establishment; they are also both Christians. Karolin is the daughter of the current governor Cornelis, and her candidacy is seen by some as her father’s attempt to build a political dynasty. She also, however, has been one of Indonesia’s biggest vote-getters in previous legislative elections.

  • Sutardmidji, the popular mayor of Pontianak, and Ria Norsan, backed by Golkar, Hanura and several Islamic parties. The two men represent the only Muslim slate in a province that is 59 per cent Muslim. They will get most of the coastal and urban Muslim vote but the interior will be up for grabs. 

  • Milton Crosby and Boyman Harun, backed by Gerindra and PAN, are seen as the potential spoilers who could split the Dayak vote and give Sutarmidji a victory. Milton is seen as the champion of upriver Dayaks for his efforts to create a new province – still far from realization – to be called Kapuas Raya.

The risk of violence is concentrated in three districts surrounding the city of Pontianak, namely Landak, Mempawah and Kubu Raya.  

Fake news and hoaxes over social media could also be a problem, especially if provocative texts with religious overtones cause tensions in remote areas that are difficult for local police to reach. Ultimately, the report says, it will be up to the candidates to ensure that their followers do not contribute to ethnic and religious polarisation.

Download article:

©2013 Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict.