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Indonesia: Christian governor's fate in voter's hands

by Aaron James

Basuki Tjahaja 'Ahok' Purnama's currently on trial accused of criticising a passage in the Quran which some claim says non-Muslims should not rule over Muslims. If found guilty he faces a five-year prison sentence.

Ahok's denied the allegations, saying he was criticising people trying to use the Quran to discredit his right to stand, rather than the text itself. He's also apologised for any upset caused by his remarks.

Commentators have dubbed the Jakarta election, part of regional elections across Indonesia, as a litmus test of how tolerant the Muslim nation is towards people of other faiths and races.

Ahok is not only a minority religiously but also racially: he is ethnic Chinese rather than Indonesian.

Indonesia is the world's most populous Islamic country. Around 186 million people are Muslims, making up about 80 per cent. Christians make up around 15 per cent of Indonesia.

While hardliners from the Islamic Defenders Front have been campaigning against Basuki Purnama's right to stand other Muslim groups support his governorship, citing his efforts to improve access to education, healthcare and public transport.

Results are not expected until the end of February. Current predictions suggest the race is very close, with a second round of voting possible.

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