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Jakarta rejects rent-a-mob politics, for now

Gubernatorial contest sees first-round gains for candidates that focus on everyday lives

| Indonesia
Jakarta Gov. Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, center, poses with family after voting in Jakarta's Feb. 15 gubernatorial elections. (Photo by Simon Roughneen)

As populist politicians sweep to victory around the globe, the world's third-largest democracy, Indonesia, is bucking the trend. There, politicians who have shown they can deliver mundane things like health care and cleaner cities are running ahead of the demagogues who aim to depose them by whipping up fear of outsiders.

Nowhere is this more evident than in the capital, Jakarta. Voters in seven provinces and 94 districts or cities -- together home to 45 million people -- went to the polls on Wednesday to choose the governors, district heads or mayors that shape their daily lives. But most eyes were focused on the battle for governor of Jakarta, where the Christian, ethnic Chinese Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama (known as Ahok) defeated his challengers despite being dragged to the courts to defend himself against charges of blasphemy against Islam.

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