Christian Governor loses Jakarta election amid blasphemy trial

(Reuters/Beawiharta)A man walks towards a ballot box to cast his vote in the governor election in Jakarta, Indonesia April 19, 2017.

Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama, Jakarta's first Christian governor in half a century, has conceded defeat to his Muslim contender, Anies Baswedanand, and called on his supporters to move on from the election.

The incumbent governor congratulated his rival and his running mate, Sandiaga Uno, in a news conference on Wednesday.

"Congratulations to Anies and Sandiaga, their campaign team and supporters. We're actually the same, we want Jakarta to be better because it is our home," said the incumbent governor, according to The Jakarta Post.

Purnama called on his supporters not to dwell on disappointment over the election, which has been seen by many as the most sectarian and divisive in the city's history.

"Trust me. Power comes from God and it too can be taken by God. No one comes to power without God's permission. Don't be sad. God knows," he said.

Baswedan, a former education minister, won the election with 58 percent of the votes against 42 percent for Purnama, based on an unofficial "quick count" by Indikator Politik.

The official results will be announced by the national elections commission in early May, Reuters reported.

The Christian governor is currently on trial for blasphemy over the comments he made last year which many considered to be an insult to Islam. Purnama faces up to five years in jail if he is convicted.

Massive protests have been held against Purnama in recent months, but he was still able to rely on a strong support base.

Baswedan's huge margin of victory came as a surprise to many because opinion polls leading up to the elections suggested a tight race. Purnama won a three-way race in the first round of voting in February.

Keith Loveard, an analyst at Jakarta-based Concord Consulting and an author of books about Indonesian politics, said that many voters were reluctant to vote for Purnama due to their concerns about "five more years of protests on the streets by Muslim hard-liners."

Baswedan's campaign ran on his promises to improve public education, provide no-deposit home loans for low-income groups, and oppose a proposal to build a seawall in Jakarta Bay that Purnama had supported. He denied allegations that he plans to implement Shariah in Jakarta if elected.

Purnama vowed to help Baswedan in the transition process and said that he would accelerate his programs until the end of his term in October.

"We still have six months (in office) until the new governor is inaugurated and we will finish up our homework," the incumbent governor said in a news conference. "We hope that in the future everyone can forget the campaign period," he added.

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