Jakarta Governor Joko Widodo, a candidate for the presidential election, said he will decide whether to step aside or take extended leave and go on non-active status after the April 9 general election.
His comments on Saturday, coming a day after the Indonesian Democratic Party-Struggle (PDI-P) nominated him to contest the presidential poll in July, signal that his deputy Basuki Tjahaja Purnama will effectively take over the running of the capital city soon.
Under the Indonesian system, there will be no by-election. So if Mr Joko, popularly known as Jokowi, is elected president and has to resign as governor, a new deputy governor will be proposed by PDI-P to assist Mr Basuki until the five-year term ends in 2017.
Mr Basuki, 47, also known as Ahok, would make history as Jakarta's first ethnic Chinese governor, which observers said would not be an issue. The question is whether he will run into resistance with his no-nonsense leadership style that has drawn support from some quarters, and criticism from others.
Mr Basuki admitted as much when he alluded to Mr Joko's role as a shield, saying last Friday: "Soon I won't have a bumper any more."
Mr Basuki has, for instance, uploaded video clips of city meetings that have gone viral. At one meeting, he upbraided a staff member who was willing to pay a supplier of China-made buses that were not only delivered 50 days late, but also rusting. At another, he hit the table and scolded subordinates for dragging their feet over telco Telkomsel's offer to donate public buses to the city. The company was not a beggar, but a donor, he shouted.
Analysts said his strong-willed style - often playing bad cop to Mr Joko's good cop - is effective in fighting rampant corruption in the bureaucracy, but may not always work for issues such as relocating illegal squatters which require a greater degree of gentle persuasion.
The two men complement each other despite coming from different parties. Mr Basuki is from the Gerindra Party of aspiring presidential contender Prabowo Subianto.
Urban planning expert Yayat Supriatna said Mr Basuki had earned the respect of many Jakarta residents and this would enable him to get the Chinese community, especially rich benefactors, to contribute more to society.
Mr Anton Medan, chairman of the Indonesian Chinese Muslim Association (Piti), said his minority status as a Chinese and Christian was no issue.
"Indonesia needs leaders like Ahok who have guts, character, brains, because the problems we are facing are extraordinarily huge."
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