Jakarta (AsiaNews) - After Jakarta and Solo, Catholics can celebrate the rise of another Catholic to an important political office. Although official results are not yet in, Budi Setiawan will likely be the next deputy chief of Banyumas Regency, Central Java. His victory is a sign that minorities are increasingly carving a space for themselves in local government, like Joko Idodo (pictured) in Jakarta.
A moderate Muslim candidate, Husein, won the top post together with Setiawan, a medical practitioner as his deputy, wont the elections in Banyumas, southwestern Central Java province, a model that is proving successful despite fierce opposition from Muslim fundamentalists.
Voters appear drawn to tickets that include moderate Muslim and Christian candidates, hoping that they might bring good government in places where officials have tended to pursue their own personal or business interests.
Local sources in Banyumas, which comes under the Diocese of Purwokerto (the provincial capital), said that Budi Setiawan is not only a great doctor involved with remote communities but also an important local leader in the Indonesian Democratic Party-Struggle (PDI-P), a nationalist party headed by former President Megawati Sukarnoputri, daughter of the country's first president, Sukarno.
As a local party leader, Budi Setiawan has steadily worked to prevent sectarian divisions. Voters were drawn to this, said Yohanes Mudjita, a former Trappist priest. In his campaign, he focused on providing services to residents.
Mgr Julianus Sunarka, bishop of Purwokerto, backed his candidacy, personally blessing his campaign staff.
Well admired and respected by local Catholics, the prelate is a major figure in the area who has never shied away from deepening ties with the local Muslim community.
His diocese covers 14 regencies, which are home to about 60,000 Catholics.