Conservative Indonesian Muslims hold big rally in Jakarta

Thousands of police had been put on standby but the rally was peaceful. (AFP)
Updated 02 December 2018
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Conservative Indonesian Muslims hold big rally in Jakarta

  • “We are proud because the Islam in Indonesia is Islam that unifies and is united and will maintain peace for everyone”
  • Hard-line groups were banned under the authoritarian regime of President Suharto, which ended in 1998, but they have gained ground in recent years

JAKARTAP: Tens of thousands of Indonesian Muslims held a rally in Jakarta on Sunday led by hard-line groups who had agitated to remove the city’s Christian governor, underscoring the growing influence of Islamist groups ahead of elections in 2019.
The rally was attended by former general, Prabowo Subianto, a nationalist with strong links to Islamists who is seeking to topple President Joko Widodo in next year’s polls after being narrowly defeated in 2014 during a bitterly fought campaign.
The crowd, many of whom were dressed in white and carrying Islamic flags, started gathering at Jakarta’s National Monument from around 3 a.m. to hold prayers.
“We are proud because the Islam in Indonesia is Islam that unifies and is united and will maintain peace for everyone,” Subianto said in a speech.
Thousands of police had been put on standby but the rally was peaceful.
Organizers call their movement a “reunion” for a series of rallies starting in late 2016 that targeted Jakarta governor Basuki TjaHajja Purnama, the first ethnic-Chinese Christian in the job, who was charged with insulting the Qur’an.
Religious and political tensions spiralled during this period and then governor Purnama, an ally of President Widodo, lost his bid for re-election to a Muslim rival and was later sentenced to two years in jail for blasphemy.
Hard-line Islamist groups were banned under the authoritarian regime of President Suharto, which ended in 1998, but they have gained ground in recent years, emerging from the fringes of society in the world’s biggest Muslim-majority country.
Widodo, who is a popular moderate, has chosen a 75-year-old Islamic cleric, Ma’ruf Amin, as his running mate in next year’s election, sparking concern among some that he is pandering to conservative Muslims in a pluralist country with significant minority communities.


India’s Modi stares at biggest election loss since coming to power

Updated 11 December 2018
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India’s Modi stares at biggest election loss since coming to power

  • Analysts say a big loss for Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party would signify rural dismay and help unite the opposition
  • Poll analysts cautioned that with the counting in preliminary stages, it was still too early to predict the outcome of state races involving millions of voters

NEW DELHI: India’s ruling party could lose power in three key states, four TV networks said on Tuesday, citing votecount leads, potentially handing Prime Minister Narendra Modi his biggest defeat since he took office in 2014, and months ahead of a general election.
The main opposition Congress party could form governments in the central states of Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh, and in the western state of Rajasthan, all big heartland states that powered Modi to a landslide win in the 2014 general election.
Analysts say a big loss for Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party would signify rural dismay and help unite the opposition, despite his high personal popularity in the face of criticism that he did not deliver on promises of jobs for young people and better conditions for farmers.
“We’ve all voted for Congress this time and our candidate is winning here,” said Bishnu Prasad Jalodia, a wheat grower in Madhya Pradesh, where it appears as if Congress might have to woo smaller parties to keep out Modi’s party.
“BJP ignored us farmers, they ignored those of us at the bottom of the pyramid.”
The elections are also a test for Rahul Gandhi, president of the left-of-center Congress, who is trying to forge a broad alliance with regional groups and face Modi with his most serious challenge yet, in the election that must be held by May.
In Rajasthan, the Congress was leading in 114 of the 199 seats contested, against 81 for the BJP, in the initial round of voting, India Today TV said.
In Chhattisgarh, the Congress was ahead in 59 of the 90 seats at stake, with the BJP at 24. In Madhya Pradesh, the most important of the five states that held assembly elections over the past few weeks, Congress was ahead, with 112 of 230 seats. The Hindu nationalist BJP was at 103, the network said.
Three other TV channels also said Congress was leading in the three states, with regional parties leading in two smaller states that also voted, Telangana in the south and Mizoram in the northeast.
Poll analysts cautioned that with the counting in preliminary stages, it was still too early to predict the outcome of state races involving millions of voters.
Local issues usually dominate state polls, but politicians are seeing the elections as a pointer to the national vote just months away.
Indian markets recovered some ground after an early fall as the central bank governor’s unexpected resignation the previous day shocked investors.
The rupee currency dropped as much as 1.5 percent to 72.465 per dollar, while bond yields rose 12 basis points to 7.71 percent after the resignation of Reserve Bank of India Governor Urjit Patel.
The broader NSE share index was down 1.3 percent, with investors cautious ahead of the election results.
“As the three erstwhile BJP states have a large agrarian population, the BJP’s drubbing could be interpreted to mean that farm unrest is real,” Nomura said in a research note before the results.
“A rout of the BJP on its homeground states should encourage cohesion among the opposition parties to strengthen the non-BJP coalition for the general elections.”
Gandhi, the fourth generation scion of the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty, has sought to build a coalition of regional groups, some headed by experienced firebrand, ambitious politicians.
Congress has already said it would not name Gandhi, who is seen as lacking experience, as a prime ministerial candidate.
“When one and one become eleven, even the mighty can be dethroned,” opposition leader Akhilesh Yadav said of the prospect of growing opposition unity.