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Meet Joko Widodo

17 Mar 2014
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What does Joko Widodo’s presidential candidacy mean for the future of Indonesian democracy?

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The announcement that Joko Widodo had been given his party’s presidential candidacy was cathartic and oddly anticlimactic. More than a year of speculation about whether PDI-P party matriarch, former President Megawati Soekarnoputri, would give the wildly popular Governor of Jakarta a shot at the presidency came to an end with a hastily convened media conference in a poor neighbourhood of the capital. There, Jokowi (as he is universally known) made what must be the most succinct declaration of a presidential candidacy in the history of democracy. He said, “I have gotten the mandate from PDI-Perjuangan Chairwoman Mrs Megawati Soekarnoputri to be the candidate for the President of the Republic for Indonesia from PDI-Perjuangan. In the name of God, most gracious and most merciful, I am ready to do it”, before kissing the Indonesian flag placed conveniently behind him.

Not exactly stirring. Then again, this skinny, self-effacing populist has never been known for his oratory. He lets his actions—impromptu visits to lower-class neighbourhoods and tours of public works projects, wearing cheap clothes and doing more listening than talking—speak for themselves. They say: I understand you, I understand your problems, and I’m going to find a way to help you. Getting to the essence of why the punters like the 52-year old governor so much is easy—as Dave McRae pithily put it, for the first time ‘Indonesians look at a politician and they see themselves in him’.

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Image: Flickr / US Embassy Jakarta, Indonesia

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2014
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