Seminar: The Jakarta Pilkada and the “Class Discontent Versus Sectarianism” Controversy


About the Seminar

In the recent Jakarta Gubernatorial elections the Incumbent, Basuki Tjahaya Purnama was defeated by Anies Baswedan, approximately 58% to 42%. Following the publication of an article by Dr Ian Wilson of Murdoch University, entitled: “Jakarta: Inequality and the poverty of elite pluralism” in the Australian National University’s NEW MANDALA website publication, a sharp and ongoing debate has developed over the respective roles of class versus religion in the recent elections. Both Indonesian and non-Indonesian political analysts and actors have weighed in on this debate. Was religious sectarianism, fanning intolerance, the key factor or was class alienation from Governor Basuki Tjahaya Purnama a factor too frequently ignored by commentators and political actors? As this debate has unfolded, there are some who have also warned that the fate suffered by Governor Purnama may also be suffered by President Widodo. This is argued, for example, in Mietzner and Muhtadi’s “Ahok’s satisfied non-voters: an anatomy” also in New Mandala, a publication that campaigned strongly for President Widodo in 2014. Was this an election pitting the rights of minorities against intolerance and sectarianism or something more complicated? Was it a rejection of choosing officials on the basis of their achievements or otherwise in favour of voting based on religious identity? This presentation will review the debate that has unfolded, looking at a variety of commentaries. It will argue that the campaign and the vote can best be explained by a series of intersecting tensions both within and between social classes in Jakarta (and Indonesia) and a strengthening of the trend towards scapegoat politics in a situation of gross imbalance in ideological activity among various political actors. The presentation will make some assessments of possible future trends in national politics.

About the Speaker

Max Lane is a Senior Visiting Fellow at ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute and a Visiting Lecturer at the Faculty of Social and Political Sciences, Gajah Mada University. His most recent books are Decentralization and Discontents: An Essay on Class, Political Agency and National Perspective in Indonesian Politics (ISEAS 2014); Unfinished Nation: Indonesia Before and After Suharto (Verso 2008, 2017); and Catastrophe in Indonesia (Seagull/University of Chicago 2010). In 2016 he published a collection of poems and prose in Indonesia and Not, Poems and Otherwise: Anecdotes Scattered (Djaman Baroe, 2016), which was launched at the 2016 Singapore Writers Festival. He is also the translator of Pramoedya Ananta Toer’s Buru Quartet set of novels and other works of Toer as well as plays and poems of W.S. Rendra. He was the founding editor of Inside Indonesia magazine, has served as a Second Secretary at the Australian Embassy in Jakarta and as a Principal Research Officer for the Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade in the Australian Parliament as well as a journalist.


For registration, please fill in this form and email to by 12 May 2017.


May 15 2017


3:00 pm - 4:30 pm


ISEAS Seminar Room 2