By Johan Purnama and Agustinus Beo Da Costa
JAKARTA (Reuters) – Thousands of Indonesians gathered on Saturday at a mosque in central Jakarta, where religious leaders urged them to support a Muslim candidate during next week’s contentious election to select the capital’s governor.
Millions of Jakarta residents head to the polls on Wednesday to pick the next governor of the sprawling city, in a contest analysts say has shaped as a proxy fight ahead of a presidential election in 2019.
Indonesia has the world’s largest Muslim population but recognises six religions and is home to hundreds of ethnic groups and adherents of traditional beliefs.
In Jakarta, the Christian and ethnic Chinese incumbent, Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, faces two Muslim contenders – Agus Harimurti Yudhoyono, the son of former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, and former education minister Anies Baswedan.
Purnama is in the extraordinary situation of campaigning for election while he is on trial for blasphemy, making weekly court appearances to defend himself against charges of insulting the Muslim holy book, the Koran.
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(Reporting by Johan Purnama and Agustinus Beo Da Costa; Additional reporting and writing by Eveline Danubrata; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)