Jakarta – Jakarta Governor Anies Baswedan attended on Monday morning an event marking the anniversary of a 2016 anti-Ahok rally, which saw thousands of participants flocking to the National Monument (Monas) in the heart of the capital.
This year's event marked the third anniversary of activists holding a large protest on Dec. 2, 2016 – hence the 212 rally name – demanding the prosecution of then-Jakarta governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama for blasphemy.
After the participants performed a mass tahajud (night prayer) at 3 a.m., Anies arrived in his civil servant uniform at around 6 a.m. and was immediately greeted with enthusiasm.
"Welcome, Pak Anies Baswedan, governor of Indonesia," said one of the hosts from a stage, followed by the participants chanting "president, president" as Anies walked up to the stage, as livestreamed by Kompas TV.
Anies was Ahok's opponent during the 2017 Jakarta gubernatorial election, which many described as the country's most divisive election, as it was plagued by the politicization of religious identities and tolerance.
Over the past months, the governor's name has circulated among pollsters as a potential candidate for the 2024 presidential race, including in a survey held by the Indonesian Survey Institute (LSI).
The LSI, which surveyed around 2,000 respondents, said Anies had been predicted to be among possible candidates from the level of regional governments alongside West Java Governor Ridwan Kamil, Central Java Governor Ganjar Pranowo and East Java Governor Khofifah Indar Parawansa.
Besides Anies, other familiar faces attending Monday's event were Gerindra Party deputy chairperson Fadli Zon and People's Consultative Assembly (MPR) Deputy Speaker Hidayat Nur Wahid.
Event head Awit Masyhuri said the "reunion", which was held under the theme "National Safety and Addressing Blasphemy", aimed to further strengthen ties in the Muslim community and between Indonesians.
"Of course, we are praying for the safety of the country and addressing blasphemy, which still occurs in this country," said Awit.
The participants also prayed for the return of Islam Defenders Front (FPI) leader Rizieq Shihab, who is in self-exile in Saudi Arabia.
The firebrand cleric has claimed that he is not able to return to Indonesia because of a government ban against him, an allegation the government has repeatedly denied.
They also prayed for President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo and Vice President Ma'ruf Amin to always be fair, honest and trustworthy in carrying out their duties. (syk)