Jakarta – With some of his former political rivals ready to welcome him, former Jakarta governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama has hinted that he would steer clear of politics.
Ahok's successor Anies Baswedan congratulated him on his upcoming release on Wednesday, saying that his former rival in the 2017 gubernatorial election would get equal treatment from the city's bureaucracy, just like any regular citizen.
"We, at the city administration, are ready to dispense services for him just like for any other citizen. By the time he is active as a Jakarta citizen, arranging paperwork, we will give him the same treatment," Anies told reporters.
Anies added that so far there had been no talk about inviting Ahok to join the Governor's Forum, a fraternity of current and former governors of Jakarta.
Anies beat Ahok in the runoff of the Jakarta gubernatorial election in 2017 after garnering 57.96 percent of the votes. Ahok managed only to get 42.04 percent of the votes cast during the election.
Analysts have credited Anies' victory to a surge in conservative voters who were offended by a statement Ahok made involving a passage from the Quran, which the North Jakarta District Court found to be blasphemous.
The court sentenced Ahok to two years in prison for blaspheming the Quran and he is expected to be released on Jan. 24. Ahok previously refused to apply for parole.
Separately, former Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) chairman Ma'ruf Amin, now a running mate for incumbent President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo in the April presidential election, said Ahok deserved to have his freedom as he had fully served his prison term.
"There's nothing special about it. He has served a prison term as ordered by the court and that is a good thing," Ma'ruf said in Tuban, East Java on Wednesday as quoted by Antara.
Ma'ruf led the charge in the campaign against Ahok in the lead-up to the Jakarta gubernatorial election by testifying in the blasphemy trial against the Chinese-Indonesian politician.
Recently, Ma'ruf said in an interview that he regretted taking part in the effort to put Ahok in jail.
While many expected Ahok to return to politics, his lawyer said the former Jakarta governor might try his hand in the oil business and become a television talk show host.
Ahok's lawyer Teguh Samudera said his client had been planning to venture into the oil business for a long time and would look for offices near the Hotel Indonesia traffic circle, the heart of the country's business and government.
The new location is about 3.3 kilometers from Ahok's previous office at City Hall. "The [new] office may not be big, but it would be enough," Teguh said on Tuesday as quoted by Antara.
The lawyer also said Ahok would sign a contract with a private television station to host a show after his release. Politics, however, is not completely off the table.
"If it is for the national interest and for the sake of the state, he will certainly obey and not refuse to return to the political arena," Teguh said.
In November, Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) politician Djarot Saiful Hidayat, his running mate in the 2017 election, said Ahok would join his party if he returned to politics. "[Ahok] said, 'If I return to politics, I will certainly join the PDI-P'," Djarot said at the time.
Ahok started his political career in 2004 when he ran for the legislative council in his home province of Bangka Belitung. In 2008, he joined the Golkar Party and was elected to the House of Representatives in 2009.
In 2012, he defected to the Gerindra Party, which backed his successful bid in the 2012 Jakarta gubernatorial election with then-Surakarta mayor Joko "Jokowi" Widodo. He left Gerindra not long after Jokowi decided to challenge Gerindra leader Prabowo Subianto in the 2014 presidential election. Jokowi won, leaving his gubernatorial post to Ahok.
In 2016, Ahok signed a political contract with the PDI-P, which supported his reelection bid. (ggq)