The Leaderboard: Joko “Jokowi” Widodo

Who is he?

Joko “Jokowi” Widodo is the apparent winner of the 2012 Jakarta gubernatorial elections held on September 20, 2012. Formerly mayor of the central Javanese city of Solo from 2005 to 2011, Jokowi built a reputation of clean and efficient leadership by implementing a reform and delivering basic services and projects to constituents. These included  streamlining business application procedures, expanding health services, easing traffic congestion, and cleaning up impoverished areas. He established rule of law and took space away from extremist elements who migrated away as their core fodder, social discontent and frustration, dissipated.  Jokowi, known for his humble checkered shirt, has fashioned himself as a political outsider and populist leader against a government largely held by elites.

Joko Widodo as the mayor of Surakarta. He is the winner of the Jakarta governor’s race according to initial polling data, beating out incumbent Fauzi Bowo. Source: Government of Indonesia.

Why is he in the news?

Jokowi emerged as a victor in Jakarta’s 2012 gubernatorial elections held on September 20. Although official results are not expected until October 2012, exit polls show that he and his running mate for deputy governor, Basuki Tjahaja secured 54% of the vote over incumbent governor and career politician Fauzi Bowo. His victory signals Indonesians’ dissatisfaction with a political establishment that is widely perceived as corrupt and inefficient.

Jokowi was backed by the opposition Democratic party of Indonesia-Struggle (PDI-P), led by former president Megawati Sukarnoputri, and the Indonesia Movement Party (Gerindra), led by Prabowo Subianto. Both Megawati and Prabowo are contenders in the 2014 presidential race, and hope to capitalize on their association with Jakarta’s dynamic governor apparent.

What can we expect from him?

It is unclear whether Jokowi can replicate his success in Solo in the larger city of Jakarta. Jokowi promised to tackle key issues, such as corruption, traffic congestion, and sanitation. Many Indonesians hope that he will be a much needed alternative to a lethargic political establishment. His entrepreneurial background and political support from the middle and upper class suggest that he will most likely pursue a policy of equitable economic growth in one of the world’s most economically vibrant cities. The fact that Basuki Tjahaja, his running mate, is a Chinese Indonesian and a Christian, is perceived as auguring well for expanded space respecting Indonesia’s diverse racial and religious make-up. The victory of a political outsider signals another step forward in Indonesia’s democratic consolidation.

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