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