JAKARTA--Indonesia’s commitment to democracy and religious tolerance may be at stake as voters in Jakarta choose their next governor Wednesday.
Jakarta’s incumbent governor, Basuki Tjahaya Purnama, popularly known as Ahok, is currently on trial for allegedly insulting Islam and some Indonesians believe that may cause him to lose.
His supporters, however, say his record of good governance may lead to victory regardless of the charges against him.
“Ahok is one of the best governors Jakarta ever had. Ahok does not have a problem with the Muslims. The Muslim are moderate, rational and compatible with democracy. But the hardliners are rejecting democracy," political analyst Boni Hargens, a Muslim, told CBN News.
Christians believe Ahok is an answer to decades of prayer in the world’s most populous Muslim country.
“This has been going on now for almost 30 years. This momentum of prayer for Indonesia, for its government. I see the rise of Basuki Purnama as a God-ordained leader...fearless in integrity, focused on being transparent Godly leader,” said Mark McClendon, the country manager for CBN Indonesia.
Ahok is Chinese and a Christian, so if he becomes the freely elected governor of Jakarta it could open the way for a double minority to become the next president, McClendon said.
“He has openly talked about this. He says 'Why can’t I be president of Indonesia. I’m Indonesian.'”
Ahok's sister, Fifi Leiti Indra, said that her brother respects people of all faiths.
“All religion has the same right and responsibility in this nation," she said. "We are educated by our parents to love this nation and to do the best for this nation. So we love the Muslims and the Muslims love us.”
Final election results are expected within three weeks and the winning candidate must receive more than 50 percent of the vote. If the winners have less than than 50%, a second round between the top two candidates will be held in April.
An Ahok win would be a strong signal that Indonesia is committed to democracy and freedom for people of all ethnicities and faiths, but even if he loses, the public will still look at his good performance as a barometer for whoever succeeds him.