Jakarta governor sworn in amid calls from hardliners for ‘Islamic lifestyle’


Presidential guards walk with (L-R) Jakarta Governor Anies Baswedan, Indonesia President Joko Widodo  and Vice President Jusuf Kalla for a swearing-in ceremony at the Presidential Palace in Jakarta, Indonesia, October 16, 2017. REUTERS/Beawiharta
guards walk with Jakarta Governor Anies Baswedan, Indonesia
President Joko Widodo and Vice President Jusuf Kalla for a
swearing-in ceremony at the Presidential Palace in


By Kanupriya Kapoor

JAKARTA (Reuters) – Indonesian President Joko Widodo swore in a
former education minister as Jakarta’s governor on Monday, months
after an election that opened up religious and ethnic divisions
in the world’s biggest Muslim-majority country.

Anies Baswedan was inaugurated 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

Baswedan 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 Tjahaja Purnama – an
ethnic Chinese Christian – whom they accused of blasphemy against

“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,”
Baswedan told reporters, wearing a crisp white uniform after a
ceremony in the Dutch colonial-style state palace.

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

Novel Bamukmin, head of FPI’s Jakarta chapter, said the group
would “push” Baswedan’s 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 theater performances funded by the city.

A spokesman for Baswedan was not immediately available for

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

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.

“I don’t feel Anies-Sandi need to pay back those (Islamist)
groups in any way,” he said, referring to the new governor and
his deputy.

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

Baswedan made public appearances with the leaders of the rallies
and FPI but denied pandering to Islamist groups to win support.

Baswedan and Uno 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.

Baswedan’s 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 Jessica Damiana; Editing by Ed Davies
and Nick Macfie)

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