By Richard Woolcott
The election of Anies Basweden, a former Minister for Education and Culture, as Mayor-Governor of Jakarta, with a very substantial majority, needs to be carefully interpretated.
We should acknowledge that it was always improbable that the acting Mayor, 'Ahok', following Jokowi's election as President,would be elected to the position in which he is acting; even with Jokowi's support.
Is it really reasonable to expect that an ethnic Chinese Christian, a member of a minority, also before the court on an undecided blasphemy charge, could be elected to be the Mayor of the capital city of the country with the largest Muslim population in the world - even if he had developed a reputation for efficiency ?
While there will be an understandable tendency in Australia (and the West ) to consider extremist Islam has been greatly strengthened, I do not think the election result can be seen as a manifestation of an upsurge of Islamic extremism (in Indonesia) at this stage.
Many moderate Muslims would have voted for Basweden simply because they would more easily identify with him, as an Indonesian Muslim.
It is true that President Jokowi's popularity has had a minor setback .He would have expected that, but he considered it necessary to press in public for a wide community approach to the election. The extremist Islamic Defenders Front ( FDI )'s influence is actually quite limited. Basweden does not welcome its extremist views and since his election he has been calling for a community approach.
Only time will tell the extent to which Islamic extremism may grow in the Indonesia of 2017.
Richard Woolcott AC is a former Secretary of The Department of Foreign Affairs and has held numerous ambassadorial positions including Ambassador to Indonesia from 1975-1978.