Anies Baswedan is now governor of Jakarta
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Anies Baswedan is now governor of Jakarta

JAKARTA has a new governor as Anies Baswedan was sworn into office on Monday, after a bitterly fought election campaign which divided the Indonesian capital along ethnic and religious lines.

President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo inaugurated his former education minister as Indonesia’s reputation for religious tolerance comes under scrutiny due to the rising clout of Islamists in a nation with large Christian, Hindu and Buddhist minorities.

Anies faced criticism after winning April’s vote with the support of Islamist groups who had agitated for months against his opponent and former governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama – an ethnic Chinese Christian – whom they accused of blasphemy against Islam.

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Aerial view of Ciliwung River as seen from Jatinegara district in Jakarta, Indonesia. Source: Reuters

“We will ensure that the governor of Jakarta will be the governor of us all, of those who voted for us and those who didn’t,” Anies told reporters, wearing a crisp white uniform after a ceremony in the Dutch colonial-style state palace.

SEE ALSO: Life after Ahok: Jakarta’s change of guard

Groups like the hardline Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) hope that the new governor will impose a more “Islamic lifestyle” in the city of more than 10 million people.

Head of FPI’s Jakarta chapter Novel Bamukmin said the group would “push” Anies’ administration to gradually close down bars and clubs in a city known for a freewheeling nightlife because “it’s immoral and … not Islamic culture.”

He told Reuters the group would begin by calling for the cancellation of the city’s New Year’s Eve celebration, which sees thousands of residents flock to street markets, concerts, and traditional theatre performances funded by the city.

Anies’ deputy Sandiaga Uno has previously said the administration would consider setting up “shariah-inspired” or Shariah-compliant entertainment spots similar to those in Abu Dhabi or Dubai.

SEE ALSO: It wasn’t just religious hatred that cost Ahok the Jakarta vote

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Protesters pray at a rally against Jakarta incumbent governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama inside Istiqlal mosque in Jakarta, Indonesia, February 11, 2017. Source: Antara Foto/Aprillio Akbar via Reuters

Indonesia is officially secular and its constitution enshrines religious diversity, though the return to democracy two decades ago after the end of the autocratic rule of Suharto has allowed hardline groups to flourish.

While religion was an important factor during the election, most Jakarta residents are also concerned with issues such as chronic traffic congestion and regular flooding.

“The hope is for Jakarta to move forward so it’s cleaner and the poor receive help,” said Wisnu, a 42-year-old courier.

SEE ALSO: Indonesian diaspora rallies around jailed Jakarta governor Ahok

“I don’t feel Anies-Sandi need to pay back those (Islamist) groups in any way,” he said.

The FPI led mass rallies in the run-up to the election to urge voters to pick a Muslim candidate over Ahok. After being put on trial and losing the election in the second round, Ahok was sentenced in May to two years in prison in a ruling that was internationally condemned as unjust.

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Ahok’s supporters stage a protest outside Cipinang Prison. Source: Reuters/Darren Whiteside

Anies made public appearances with the leaders of the rallies and FPI but denied pandering to Islamist groups to win support. Anies-Sandi are backed by the main opposition party Gerindra, which has now wrenched control of the capital away from Widodo’s ruling party.

“Jakarta serves as a national political barometer,” said Gerindra official Arief Poyuono. “Because of that it is important that Gerindra has taken over control of Jakarta…to be able to win in general and presidential elections in 2019.”

The battle for the Jakarta governorship was widely seen as a proxy for the 2019 presidential election.

Anies’ main backer is retired general and Gerindra chief Prabowo Subianto who is widely expected to run for president against Widodo in 2019.

Additional reporting by Reuters