News / Asia

Jakarta Governor’s Presidential Nomination Shakes Up Indonesian Politics

Indonesian presidential candidate Joko Widodo talks with his supporters during a campaign event by the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDIP) in Jakarta, Indonesia, March 16, 2014.
Indonesian presidential candidate Joko Widodo talks with his supporters during a campaign event by the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDIP) in Jakarta, Indonesia, March 16, 2014.
Kate Lamb
The rise of Jakarta governor Joko Widodo, a former furniture retailer from a small town in Java, has become something of a political phenomenon in Indonesia. A relative outsider in a system dominated by political elites, many say Widodo is likely to be Indonesia’s next president.
Even before it was certain he would run president, Joko Widodo, known widely here by his nickname ‘Jokowi,’ has dominated opinion polls for months.
Dubbed the ‘Jokowi effect’ the current Jakarta governor is so popular that when it was confirmed just days ago that he would contest the July presidential election, the rupiah hit a 19-week high.
In a society deeply divided by extremes of wealth, racked by corruption, and where politicians rarely mix with the populace outside election time, Widodo’s approach is unique.
The 52-year-old politician is known for his down to earth style and has become famous for “blusukan,” his habit of impromptu spot checks that keep government officers wary.
Endy Bayuni, a senior editor at the Jakarta Post, said the governor’s approach has captured the imagination of Indonesian voters. “I think most of all it is his personal character. He comes across as someone who is humble, low profile, honest, qualities that seem to be lacking among most of our politicians, and I think people like that,” he stated.
The world’s third-largest democracy will go to the polls more than once this year, first in the parliamentary election this April and then in July for the subsequent presidential vote.
To nominate a presidential candidate, a party, or a coalition of parties, must win at least 25 percent of the national vote in the April ballot.
Announcing Joko Widodo’s presidential nomination last Friday afternoon, Megawati Sukarnoputri, the head of the Democratic Party of Struggle, executed brilliant political timing. Following months of intense speculation the party is now expected to draw at least 30 percent in the parliamentary vote.
Douglas Ramage, a senior analyst with Bower Group Asia said Jokowi’s clean record speaks volumes. “He is perceived as overwhelmingly honest and sincere, which voters say is the number one quality they are looking for in a candidate. I think the voters have been pretty consistent for the past decade and in almost all the past surveys about what voters are looking for in a candidate, they are putting transparency, good governance and anti corruption at the top of the list,” he said.
The governor’s biggest contender is Prabowo Subianto, a former army general accused of human rights abuses in East Timor, who is currently banned from traveling to the United States.
Other candidates include wealthy businessman Aburizal Bakrie and Wiranto, another former general.
As campaign season intensifies, each presidential candidate is working to present themselves as a common, man of the people, but in reality many have strong ties to the old regime.
Artian Pratomo, from the independent group Solo Kota Kita, said that Widodo prioritized the needs of the most vulnerable long before he thought about becoming president.
As Solo mayor, Widodo introduced basic healthcare and education for the poor and placed a strong emphasis on community consultation.
“Actually he only did small things, but those small things were the principal part of the whole idea. Only small things but the implication, the impact, was very big, because he did it with a humanistic method,” said Pratomo.
As head of the Jakarta administration for the past 18 months, Widodo has also earned praise for pragmatism and early efforts to revamp a desperately overrun metropolis.
But despite his popularity, there are many unknowns.
The governor’s grassroots approach might not work for the president’s office. Constituents know little of what he stands for at the national level.
“We don't know how familiar he is with the economic challenges Indonesia faces, or even what is his foreign policy. We don't know how he views the strategic security interests of Indonesia, so there is so many question marks about Jokowi, but I think people are willing to take the chance,” Bayuni said.
Fifteen years after the fall of dictator Suharto, the 2014 election will be the third time Indonesia democratically chooses its president.
A total 186.5 million people are registered to vote in this year’s elections.

You May Like

US, China Have Dueling Definitions of Cybersecurity

Analysts say attribution or or proving that a particular individual or government is responsible for a hack, is a daunting task More

Snowden: I'd Go to Prison to Return to US

Former NSA contractor says he has not received a formal plea-deal offer from US officials, who consider him to be a traitor More

Goodbye Pocahontas: Photos Reveal Today's Real Native Americans

Weary of stereotypes, photographer Matika Wilbur is determined to reshape the public's perception of her people More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Making a Minti
October 07, 2015 4:17 AM
While apples, corn, and cranberries top the list of fall produce in the US, it’s also the time to harvest gum, candy, and toothpaste—or at least the oil that makes them minty fresh. Erika Celeste reports from South Bend, Indiana on the mint harvest.

Video Making a Mint

While apples, corn, and cranberries top the list of fall produce in the US, it’s also the time to harvest gum, candy, and toothpaste—or at least the oil that makes them minty fresh. Erika Celeste reports from South Bend, Indiana on the mint harvest.

Video Activists Decry Lagos Slum Demolition

Acting on a court order, authorities in Nigeria demolished a slum last month in the commercial capital, Lagos. But human rights activists say the order was illegal, and the community was razed to make way for a government housing project. Chris Stein has more from Lagos.

Video Self-Driving Cars Getting Closer

We are at the dawn of the robotic car age and should start getting used to seeing self-driving cars, at least on highways. Car and truck manufacturers are now running a tight race to see who will be the first to hit the street, while some taxicab companies are already planning to upgrade their fleets. VOA’s George Putic has more.

Video TPP Agreed, But Faces Stiff Opposition

President Barack Obama promoted the Trans-Pacific Partnership on Tuesday, one day after 12 Pacific Rim nations reached the free trade deal in Atlanta. The controversial pact that would involve about 40 percent of global trade still needs approval by lawmakers in respective countries. Zlatica Hoke reports Obama is facing strong opposition to the deal, including from members of his own party.

Video Clinton Seeks to Boost Image Before Upcoming Debate

The five announced Democratic party presidential contenders meet in their first debate next Tuesday in Las Vegas, Nevada. Former secretary of state Hillary Clinton continues to lead the Democratic field, but she is getting a stronger-than-expected challenge from Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.

Video Music Brings Generations Together

When musicians over the age of 50 headline a rock concert, you expect to see baby boomer fans in the audience. Boomer rock stars have boomer fans. Millennial rock stars have millennial fans. But this isn’t always the case. Take the Lockn’ Music festival which took place in mid-September in rural Arrington, Virginia. Here, Jacquelyn de Phillips discovered two generations of people who are considered quite different in the outside world, spending 4 days together in music-loving harmony.

Video Ukranian Artist Portrays Putin in an Unusual Way

As Russian President Vladimir Putin was addressing the United Nations in New York last month, he was also being featured in an art exhibition in Washington. It’s not a flattering exhibit. It’s done by a Ukrainian artist in a unique medium. And its creator says it’s not only a work of art - it’s a political statement. VOA’s Tetiana Kharchenko has more.

Video South Carolina Reels Under Worst-ever Flooding

South Carolina is reeling from the worst flooding in recorded history that forced residents from their homes and left thousands without drinking water and electricity. Parts of the state, including the capital, Columbia, received about 60 centimeters of rain in just a couple of days. Authorities warn that the end of rain does not mean the end of danger, as it will take days for the water to recede. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europe

European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

VOA Blogs