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szdaily -> Person of the week
Jokowi: the new face of Indonesian politics
     2014-July-25  08:53    Shenzhen Daily

    Joko Widodo was declared the winner of Indonesia’s presidential election Tuesday, bringing the promise of major reforms to the world’s third-largest democracy. He won the country’s closest-ever presidential election by just over 6 percentage points. Hopes are running high for him, but the narrow victory means he now faces the onerous task of implementing reforms while appeasing coalition partners.

    Jokowi: the new face of Indonesian politics

    WHEN Indonesian furniture business owner Joko Widodo, better known for his abbreviated name Jokowi, turned to a career in politics nine years ago, he was a complete novice. But the can-do, clean image he has cultivated as a small-town mayor and over the past year-and-a-half as Jakarta governor has propelled him to the presidential palace.

    He is set to become Indonesia’s first leader not to have emerged from the political or military elite.

    The Elections Commission on Tuesday announced that Jokowi had beaten his rival, ex-general Prabowo Subianto, in the July 9 race by 6 percentage points — the country’s closest presidential election ever. He will take office Oct. 20.

    To many Indonesians, Jokowi, 53, represents a clean break from the old elite that have clung to power since the fall in 1998 of former authoritarian ruler Suharto.

    It is Jokowi’s meteoric rise through the ranks of local government, his refusal to be intimidated by entrenched interests and his famous impromptu visits around Jakarta that have endeared him to a broad swathe of Indonesians, in particular the poor and minority groups.

    “Jokowi’s the first genuinely post-Suharto figure (while) everybody else comes from that era, including Prabowo,” said Paul Rowland, a Jakarta-based political analyst.

    “He is a different generation of politician and there’s a market for politicians like him who are lower-key but who get things done,” he added.

    Since leading Jakarta, he has succeeded in finally starting a mass transit railway system for the notoriously traffic-clogged city, a concept first proposed over 20 years ago. He hasn’t shied away from shaking up the city’s inert bureaucracy and has faced down resistance to clearing congested areas.

    And he has promised to continue shaking things up as president. In an interview last week he said he would beef up the country’s threadbare infrastructure, unravel nearly impenetrable regulations and sack ministers if they aren’t up to the job.

    “If [ministers don’t succeed] there are more than a thousand other good people in Indonesia to replace them. I can cut and then replace them. It’s very simple for me,” he said.

    Jokowi’s celebrity-style popularity left the powerful head of his party and ex-president Megawati Sukarnoputri with no choice but to set aside her own ambitions and nominate him for president.

    Vice-president-elect Jusuf Kalla, a successful businessman from the eastern island of Sulawesi, served as vice president in the first term of outgoing president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and earned a reputation for being a shrewd politician.

    Kalla said he intended to use his office to complement Jokowi’s, rather than eclipse the native of Java, who is relatively inexperienced on the national stage.

    Starting his victory speech with a special tribute to his rivals, Prabowo and Hatta Rajasa, on Tuesday evening, Jokowi called on the nation to unite again after the divisive presidential race, saying that a unified nation would help to create a new Indonesia.

    Jokowi did not touch on Prabowo’s decision to reject the results of the election, since the latter’s allegations of massive vote rigging failed to provide concrete evidence to support the allegations.

    “We highly appreciate and thank Bapak Prabowo Subianto and Hatta Rajasa, who have been our friends in this political competition,” the Jakarta governor said in his speech aboard a traditional phinisi ship in Sunda Kelapa Port in North Jakarta.

    His aides said Jokowi intentionally chose the ship as the venue to address the nation as a symbol of his strong determination to realize his campaign promise to create a strong maritime future for Indonesia. In an earlier TV debate with Prabowo, Jokowi outlined an ambitious program to revive the country’s maritime status.

    The former Surakarta mayor also emphasized the urgent need for families, friends, relatives and neighbors who had made different political choices in the election to end their divisions and heal the wounds caused by the presidential race.

    Jokowi added that under his leadership as the country’s president, with Kalla as his deputy, the Indonesian people would be able to enter a new era. This goal could only be reached, he said, when the nation was strongly united and working together, each according to their position in society.

    Therefore, he urged his supporters and Prabowo’s supporters to return to their daily lives and forget the bitterness of the election.

    “From now on, farmers return to the rice fields, traders to the markets, laborers to the factories, employees to their offices,” Jokowi said.

    “Forget number 1 [Prabowo] and number 2 [Jokowi]. Let us become a united Indonesia, a great Indonesia,” he said.

    Jokowi’s can-do approach, impatience with bureaucracy and willingness to communicate directly with ordinary people has won him a huge following in a country where close to 40 percent of the population live below or close to the poverty line.

    The new president faces huge challenges to boost Indonesia’s sagging growth, cut an unsettlingly large current account deficit that is weighing on the currency and meet pledges to improve the lot of its 240 million people.

    One of Jokowi’s first challenges will be to cut into fuel subsidies that distort the economy and eat up about a fifth of the annual budget.

    The United States, which sees Indonesia as an increasingly important partner in Asia, was quick to offer congratulations. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said bilateral ties had strengthened to the point where the two countries “can jointly address common regional and global challenges.”

    “The United States looks forward to working with President-elect Widodo as we deepen our partnership, promote our shared objectives globally, and expand people-to-people ties between our nations,” Kerry said in a statement.

    A former furniture businessman of Javanese descent, Jokowi has had a meteoric rise through Indonesia’s political establishment.

    He is the eldest son of Noto Mihardjo and Sujiatmi Notomihardjo. Before changing his name, Joko Widodo was called Mulyono.

    His education started in State Primary School 111, Tirtoyoso, known for being a school for less wealthy citizens. Due to the financial difficulties in his childhood, he had to work his way through primary school to earn enough money for school materials and pocket money. At 12, he started working in his father’s furniture workshop. The evictions he experienced three times in his childhood affected his way of thinking and his leadership later on as the mayor of Surakarta (Solo) as he organized housing in the city.

    Jokowi was elected governor of Jakarta on Sept. 20, 2012 after a second-round runoff election in which he defeated the incumbent governor Fauzi Bowo. His win was widely seen as reflecting popular voter support for “new” or “clean” leaders rather than the “old” style of politics in Indonesia, although he is over 50 years old. Jokowi’s popularity has rise sharply since his election to the high-profile position.(SD-Agencies)

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