Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, Jakarta’s first Christian governor, has conceded defeat to Anies Rasyid Baswedan, a Muslim and former government minister in a vote seen by many as a test of Indonesia’s secular identity.
“It’s a challenge for Indonesia’s democracy,” said Bonar Tigor Naipospos, vice chairman of the executive board of the Setara Institute for Democracy and Peace, a research institute in Jakarta.
“It shows to me that Islamization is deepening in society, especially in urban areas and cities,” he said.
Baswedan is known to be a moderate Muslim, but attracted criticism when he met publicly with Islamist groups during his campaign.
His team insists he remains a pluralist.
His big margin came as a surprise because opinion polls in the run-up to the election were predicting a dead-heat.
Indonesian social media users likened the election outcome to the shock results of the US presidential vote and the Brexit vote of last year.
The election campaign featured mass rallies led by a hardline Islamist movement, which has strengthened in recent years.
The hardline Islamists said Purnama, a Christian of Chinese descent, insulted a Koranic verse during a campaign speech and have rallied large crowds against him in recent months.
He is now on trial for blasphemy, which he denies.
Religion however was not the only factor in his defeat.
Purnama, known by his nickname Ahok, won popularity for trying to improve traffic-choked, chaotic Jakarta by cleaning up rivers and demolishing red-light districts.
But his combative style and controversial slum clearances sparked some opposition.
Official results by the General Elections Commission of Indonesia will not be released until next week.
News category: Pacific.