Indonesian Muslim candidate wins Jakarta election: Pollsters

Anis Baswedan, right, hugs his deputy Sandiaga Una during a press conference in Jakarta on Wednesday. (AFP)
Updated 20 April 2017
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Indonesian Muslim candidate wins Jakarta election: Pollsters

JAKARTA: A former Indonesian education minister won the race for Jakarta governor on Wednesday after a polarizing campaign that cast a shadow over Indonesia’s reputation for practicing a tolerant form of Islam.
Anies Baswedan won with 58 percent of the votes versus 42 percent for Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, known by his Chinese nickname “Ahok,” based on 100 percent of the votes in an unofficial “quick count” by Indikator Politik. Other pollsters showed similar results.
The national elections commission will announce official results in early May.
The turbulent campaign featured mass rallies led by a hard-line Islamist movement, which has strengthened in recent years in a country long dominated by a moderate form of Islam. More than 80 percent of Indonesia’s population professes Islam.
“Going forward, the politics of religion is going to be a potent force,” said Keith Loveard, an analyst at Jakarta-based Concord Consulting and an author of books about Indonesian politics.
Baswedan’s huge margin of victory was surprising since opinion polls in the run-up to the election had pointed to a dead-heat. Purnama won the first round of voting for governor in February in a three-way race.
Indonesian social media users likened the election outcome to the shock results of the US presidential vote and the Brexit vote of last year.
One Twitter user, @fuadhn, said Indonesians “can feel what US and British citizens feel now. Welcome populism...”
The election came on the eve of a visit by US Vice President Mike Pence, as the Trump administration seeks to engage the world’s fourth-largest nation and largest Muslim-majority country as an emerging regional power.
Pence is scheduled on Thursday to visit the biggest mosque in Southeast Asia, Jakarta’s Istiqlal Mosque.
The Jakarta election will be seen as a barometer for the 2019 presidential election, given the city’s outsized importance as both the nation’s capital and commercial center.
Purnama is backed by President Joko Widodo’s ruling party. Baswedan is supported by a retired general, Prabowo Subianto, who narrowly lost to Widodo in a 2014 presidential vote and is expected to challenge him again.
Police said 15 people were detained following reports of disturbances at several polling stations in the city of 10 million people, after what the Jakarta Post this week dubbed “the dirtiest, most polarizing and most divisive” election campaign the nation had ever seen.
Security appeared light at several polling stations, though police said 66,000 personnel were deployed across the city.
Religious tensions have been an undercurrent in the campaign, with Purnama on trial for blasphemy over comments he made last year that many took to be insulting to Islam.
Hundreds of thousands of Muslims took to the streets late last year to call for his sacking and to urge voters not to elect a non-Muslim leader.
One person died and more than 100 were injured after one protest turned violent.
Some voters may have been reluctant to vote for Purnama because of worries about “five more years of protests on the streets by Muslim hard-liners,” Loveard said in a telephone interview.
Ismail Yusanto, spokesman for one of the groups, Hizbut Tahrir Indonesia, said the election showed Jakarta voters did not want a non-Muslim leader.
“It is forbidden under Islamic law to have an infidel leader,” he told Reuters.
Baswedan, a respected scholar who many viewed as moderate, drew widespread criticism during the campaign when he aggressively courted the conservative Islamic vote, appearing publicly with hard-line Islamic leaders during anti-Purnama rallies.

Baswedan, surrounded by his political patrons including Prabowo, struck a reconciliatory tone at a news conference after unofficial results came in, pledging to “safeguard diversity and unity.”
His platform has focused on improving public education, providing no-deposit home loans for low-income groups and opposing a giant seawall in Jakarta Bay that Purnama has advocated. Baswedan has denied he plans to implement Islamic sharia law in Jakarta if elected.
Baswedan will officially take over as governor in October.
Purnama congratulated his rival in a news conference.
“We still have six months (in office) until the new governor is inaugurated and we will finish up our homework,” Purnama said. “We hope that in the future everyone can forget the campaign period.”
Purnama’s blasphemy trial resumes on Thursday and he faces up to five years in jail if convicted.
Investors in Indonesian markets are likely to return to fundamentals such as corporate earnings, now that the political uncertainties surrounding the divisive Jakarta election have diminished, analysts said.
“As long as there are no security issues, the election outcome should not significantly stall the reform program of the national government, in our view,” Citigroup said in a note.
It maintained its year-end target of 6,150 points for the Jakarta stock exchange, which represents an 8 percent upside.


With 10-year visa, UAE could be new land of opportunity for Indians

Routine day at Dubai International Airport. AN photo
Updated 23 May 2018
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With 10-year visa, UAE could be new land of opportunity for Indians

  • The ruler of Dubai changed rules to allow foreign investors to fully own companies
  • The Indian banking sector is far more developed in terms of product, technology and the caliber of professionals

NEW DELHI: Indians are likely to “flood” the UAE once its recently announced residency visa rules for students and highly qualified professionals come into place, experts said Tuesday.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum, vice president and the prime minister of the UAE, announced on Sunday a 10-year visa for investors, scientists, doctors, engineers, entrepreneurs and innovators, as well as their families.
 As part of the changes, students will get five-year visas and “exceptional” graduates will be eligible for a 10-year visa.  Students currently have to apply to renew their visa each year.
The ruler of Dubai also changed rules to allow foreign investors to fully own companies. So far companies have been required to have a local partner who would hold the majority stake.
 The changes are expected to kick in during the third quarter of this year.
 “The UAE has always welcomed, and always will, innovators and business leaders,” Sheikh Mohammed tweeted as he announced the new rules.
 The UAE, with its proximity to India, high salaries and low taxes, has always been a magnet for Indians. It is home to about 2.6 million Indians who make up roughly 30 percent of the country’s population, according to the Indian Embassy in Abu Dhabi. These numbers are expected to shoot up once the new rules apply.
 “Indians are always looking at new work opportunities anywhere in the world,” said Aradhana Mahna, managing director of Manya Education, a study abroad solutions provider in Delhi.  While the US and the UK have historically been avenues for Indian students looking to study abroad, the number of students applying to those countries have undergone a “sharp decline” since the election of US President Donald Trump — who made protectionist comments during his campaign days and since taking office — and since the UK decided to split with the European Union, Mahna said.
 “Dubai is close to home and that has always made it a preferred destination for Indians. Especially now with the US going down, it will be flooded by Indians,” she added.
Mukesh Bhasin, partner at Career Connect, an executive search firm that focuses on banking, financial services and the insurance sector (BFSI), agreed that the new rules would go a long way in attracting Indian talent.
 “The Indian banking sector is far more developed in terms of product, technology and the caliber of professionals,” he said. “The encouraging visa regime will lead to a lot of interest from Indian BFSI professionals toward Middle East opportunities given the already-existing tax benefits and international-quality lifestyle.”
 Since the collapse in 2008 of Lehman Brothers, most developed markets, including neighboring Singapore and Hong Kong, have cut back on the number of people they are hiring from abroad for their domestic operations. This includes a slowdown in foreign transfers for Indian employees of multinational banks, said Bhasin.