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Jakarta inaugurates new governor after divisive campaign

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Jakarta Governor Anies Baswedan (R) and his deputy Sandiaga Uno wave to reporters before a swearing-in at the Presidential Palace in Jakarta, Indonesia, October 16, 2017.

[JAKARTA] Jakarta swore in a new Muslim governor Monday after a divisive election campaign marked by mass protests against his Christian opponent which raised fears for pluralism in Indonesia.

Academic and former education minister Anies Baswedan was inaugurated along with his running mate, businessman Sandiaga Uno, nearly six months after decisively beating the capital's incumbent governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama.

Blasphemy allegations against Purnama, Jakarta's first non-Muslim governor for half a century and its first ethnic Chinese leader, sparked mass protests spearheaded by radicals and contributed to him losing the vote.

He was sentenced to two years' jail for insulting the Koran one month later.

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After his official swearing-in, Mr Baswedan pledged to govern for all of Jakarta.

"It (the election) was merely a mechanism to determine who would be the governor and the mandate of the constitution is for all Jakarta residents. We want a fair Jakarta for all," he told reporters.

The blasphemy allegations and Mr Purnama's subsequent jailing sparked fears that pluralism in the world's most populous Muslim country was under threat from hardliners who pushed for the governor's prosecution.

Mr Baswedan was criticised for pandering to conservatives who helped organise the mass protests against his rival.

After his victory he celebrated with Islamic hardliners by praying at a major mosque.

During his campaign, the 48-year-old promised to provide cheap housing and eradicate prostitution.

He also declared opposition to Mr Purnama's efforts to clean up the city through the eviction of residents living illegally on riverbanks.

The Jakarta governorship is a significant national political position and is often seen as a stepping stone to higher office.

Current President Joko Widodo led the city from 2012-2014, with Mr Purnama as his deputy.

AFP