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Politics

Opposition-backed Baswedan sworn in as Jakarta governor

Former education minister led religiously divisive campaign

Anies Baswedan, second from near left, was sworn in as governor of Jakarta at the presidential palace, by President Joko Widodo, right. (Photo by Bobby Nugroho)

JAKARTA -- Former education minister Anies Baswedan was sworn in Monday as new governor of the sprawling Indonesian capital of Jakarta for a five-year term in a ceremony at the presidential palace.

Baswedan will lead the teeming metropolis with a population of more than 10 million, and which faces major urban challenges such as traffic jams, rising home prices and security concerns. Jakarta recently placed fourth from bottom on The Economist Intelligence Unit's list of safe cities.

"Starting October 16, we will start the change of Jakarta," Baswedan told reporters after the ceremony. "We plan to run all the promises. Usually people call them work programs, but we call them promises."

Baswedan will be closely watched by the international community after running a polarizing campaign along with Deputy Governor Sandiaga Uno centering on religious issues.

With backing from opposition leader Prabowo Subianto, the pair defeated the Christian, ethnic-Chinese incumbent Basuki Tjahaja Purnama in the April election. A doctored video of Purnama quoting the Quran in criticizing those using it to denounce non-Muslim leaders went viral, drawing hundreds of thousands of protesters to rallies in the capital late last year.

The rallies became a focal point for the rise of hard-line Islamic sentiment in Indonesia, the world's largest Muslim-majority nation, known for its embrace of moderate Islam. Purnama was convicted of blasphemy after the election, and is currently serving a two-year sentence.

During the campaign, Baswedan, a university rector before turning to politics, courted low-income households by promising home loans with no down payments. He also opposed an artificial islands project that raised fears about possible harm to the livelihoods of fishermen.

One of the challenges he may face could come from Luhut Pandjaitan, minister for maritime affairs, who recently restarted the islands project and said the Jakarta administration should not interfere.

Bobby Nugroho in Jakarta contributed to this article.

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