Welcome, Governor Ahok

Welcome, Governor Ahok
City Deputy Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama.

Welcome on board, officially, Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama, who was beaming and smiling while greeting well-wishers at the State Palace after his inauguration on Wednesday. President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo and First Lady Iriana Widodo gave a hearty handshake to his former deputy. When Jokowi was Jakarta's governor, both had been targets of widespread protests by workers, vendors, slum residents and, most disturbingly, religous vigilantes simply because Ahok is a minority, ethnically Chinese and Christian.

On his inauguration day, however, none of these protests were visible despite obvious opportunities to do so, largely as a result of attention directed toward the recently increased subsidised fuel prices. They would not have made any difference either, as Ahok looked unpertrubed, being confident he would not face much disruption since the Jakarta legislative council endorsed him as the next governor, despite opposition from certain factions. Several politicians, such as those from Gerindra and the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS), have said they are still taking legal measures, as they oppose Ahok's instalment pending their request of a legal opinion, on whether the former deputy automatically becomes the governor, given the new presidential regulation in lieu of law on the election of regional heads.

However, for most of Jakarta's residents and its commuters, it is too much of a luxury to reject the new governor based on legal technicalities. As far as most residents are concerned, Jokowi's former deputy is the next man to continue the governor's job. There was no time to party, as after the inauguration across at City Hall the next item on the agenda was getting right back to work.

The rainy season will be the merciless test for Ahok's leadership. The annual cynicsm against governors who were taunted for letting millions suffer in the floods will pass on to Ahok, who after Jokowi's departure from City Hall no longer has the "good cop" at his side. Ahok has said he will tone down his blunt, offensive style but will have to engage in innovative strategies to win over people, his underlings and opponents, as personal styles don't usually change that much.

What Ahok already can count on is public support for the merit system that Jokowi started to ferret out the city's best leaders down to subdistrict heads. There is also support for law enforcement but with a much more humane, democratic approach than in the past - the key to a number of succeses of then governor Jokowi.

On Tuesday, Ahok apologised to squatters in Bidara Cina, East Jakarta, whose homes along the Ciliwung River were to be demolished. "I'm really sorry I have to do this, I accept that you won't elect me in the 2017 local elections," he said. He assured residents the compensation for their homes would be more or less worth the market price, while residents said they had been falsely accused of holding up the river bank clearing programme. Leading Jakarta is far from easy but one good strategy for Governor Ahok would be to continue his honest approach.

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