Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama made history on Monday (June 2nd).
The 47-year-old became the first member of Indonesia's tiny ethnic Chinese minority to become chief executive of the capital region's government, becoming Jakarta's acting governor after Joko "Jokowi" Widodo vacated the city's top job to focus on his presidential candidacy.
If Jokowi, the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) candidate, loses the July 9th election against opponent Prabowo Subianto of the Great Indonesia Movement party (Gerindra), he will return to his old job. But if he wins, Ahok, a Gerindra party member, will serve out the remainder of Jowoki's term, which expires in 2016.
"It will be a challenge, but I will try to do my best, including being patient in responding to any case," Ahok, a Christian, told Khabar Southeast Asia last month.
Asked whether Jakarta citizens would be nervous about his ability to fulfil all of Jokowi's promises, he replied, "I will continue to focus on each programme that we already have, and I take this mandate seriously."
Meanwhile, Gerindra Chairman Suhardi expressed confidence in Ahok's ability to govern Indonesia's largest city.
He will "lead Jakarta with good care", Suhardi told Khabar, adding Ahok was among the party's best politicians. "He will be able to solve all remaining problems. He is tough, and that's what we need for Jakarta," the Gerindra boss said.
An important moment
Although Ahok has his share of critics, some Indonesians say his ascension to Jakarta's top job is a shining example of the archipelago's racial diversity.
"This is an opportunity to show that we are tolerant and faithfully accept the results of democratic processes. The number of ethnic Chinese is only 2% of Indonesia's population," said Esther Margaretha, a 29-year-old Jakarta resident.
People will be watching Ahok closely, but they should not judge his performance in public office because of his ethnicity or religion, fellow Jakarta citizen Muhammad Dwiyanto said.
"We should not see this as a competition of ethnicities and religions. We have to see this as a good opportunity for tolerance and the successful operation of democratic processes," he told Khabar.
"This is an important moment in history, not only for Basuki but for every citizen, demonstrating that Indonesia is accepting of multiculturalism."
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