But it was also the MUI that issued a fatwa last year that declared that Ahok had committed blasphemy, which sparked protests that drew as many as 200,000 people to one rally, showing the potential of the body to spur public response.
Ahok, like Jokowi, is seen as an economic reformer and would be a key player in plans to beef up infrastructure in the city of 10 million, the largest in the country and a commercial as well as political hub.
Colm Fox, a professor of political science at the Singapore Management University, however said the reformer tag has not been a sure-fire winner in political races in Indonesia.
"Mayoral and district head elections in Indonesia are very personalistic," Fox said. "In terms of winning an election, the character traits and identity of the candidates and whether they are likeable is key. In contrast, the ability for parties to foster support for their candidates is weak (as) most of Indonesia's parties are still relatively new and the public's attachment to (them) is still weak."
Still, Fox said that " (p)olicy has become more important in recent years and candidates have become increasingly specific on their policies."
While the gubernatorial election might not have a significant impact on the Jokowi government's national reform agenda, the results could affect local policy, said Jacob Ricks, a professor at the Singapore Management University. He cited policies that target mass transit infrastructure and flood control in Jakarta as issues that will be impacted by who assumes the post as governor.
"Ahok's administration has moved forward on these issues, and hopefully they would continue as planned under the new administration. Ahok is widely seen as a no-nonsense manager … It remains to be seen if either of the other two candidates would be as effective," Ricks said in an email.
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