The Indonesian capital’s sitting Christian governor, Basuki ‘Ahok’ Tjahaja Purnama, conceded defeat in the April 19 election, which has been viewed as a test for pluralism in the world’s largest Muslim country.
Anies Baswedan, the country’s former education minister, has been declared Jakarta’s next governor.
As reported by Deutsche Welle (DW), Germany’s international broadcaster, Ahok’s religion was a dominant factor: As a Christian belonging to a Chinese minority, many Islamic organisations viewed him unfit to govern the capital of the largest Muslim country in the world.
“This election is a test of Indonesian pluralism’s ability to stand up to the pressure from religious groups and populists,” said Wimar Witoelar, a political analyst and campaign advisor to former President Abdurrahman Wahid, ahead of the election. Not only Jakarta, but all of “Indonesia is at a turning point”.
The multi-ethnic state has in some ways been a model of religious tolerance. Yet since the beginning of democratization in 1998, radical Islamic groups have asserted increasing political influence. Provinces have enacted Sharia, or Islamic law, to the detriment of religious minorities.
Meanwhile, Ahok is currently on trial for blasphemy. At an event in September, he cautioned voters not to be swayed by claims that the Koran prohibits voting for non-Muslims. The statement was twisted in social media, claiming Ahok had insulted the Islamic holy book.
According to DW, opponents seized on the opportunity to bring down a then-popular governor.
In a separate report, the BBC noted that Anies Baswedan’s running mate Sandiaga has denied claims they will enforce elements of Sharia law across Jakarta.
“I believe in the Islamic economic system but we will not enforce Islamic law across Jakarta. That is not something we can do,” he told the BBC.