Jokowi in Jakarta –World’s largest Muslim country has a new president
Jokowi in Jakarta — Indonesia breaks with the past
Joko Widodo will soon assume the reigns of presidency in Indonesia. This became apparent as the long and complex electoral process came to a close with the official announcement of the results by the authorities in Jakarta. Joko Widodo, fondly called Jokowi by his supporters, enters the presidency with a whiff of fresh air. He is not the stereotypical Indonesian politician. With no military roots, no backing of old political parties, and no financial muscle, he took on a formidable opponent of the tradition type, and won. In many ways, he was a green-horn having held no political office earlier. Nine years ago, he had been elected Mayor of the central Javan city of Solo.
It is apparent the good work he did in the seven years as Solo’s Mayor that the public appreciated so much catapulting him to the highest office of the nation. Solo, before his becoming Mayor, was a decaying urban sprawl, too densely- populated, dirty and crime-ridden to have any chance for renewal. He transformed that unlivable city into a swanky and sparkling tourist destination. Through a series of carefully- planned initiatives, he helped to project Solo as the vibrant citadel of Javanese art, heritage and culture. The transformation was spectacular that won him acclaim nationally. Later, he took over as the Governor of Jakarta in 2012 in an election in which he defeated his powerful rival who had once been the treasurer of the Golkar Party.
From the time of ex-President Sukarno, Golkar, with its roots in Indonesia’s military, has dominated the political landscape of the country. Jakarta faced more daunting problems than solo. Fixing them was much slower and more difficult than what he had faced in Solo. But, as he grappled with his task, his popularity soared.
It was initially doubtful if Jokowi would get the endorsement of the Indonesian Democratic Party-Struggle (PDI-P). But the party leader Megawati Sukarnoputri opted out of the race, clearing the deck for Jokowi’s nomination. Jokowi and his vice-presidential running mate garnered 53.15 per cent of the total vote compared to 46.8% of his rival Prabowo Subianto. The latter is a former military general belonging to the Great Indonesia Movement Party (Gerindra). Mr. Prabowo has, however, not accepted his defeat gracefully, and has chosen to approach the Constitutional Court against the verdict. By all account, the result in support of Jokowi has little chance of being reversed.
Jokowi’s victory marks the end of the Suharto dynasty’s long shadow over the country’s politics. Indonesia’s northern neighbor Thailand is now embroiled in intense political strife. For years, it has swung back and forth between a politically elected government and military rule. In India’s western neighbourhood Pakistan, the people have to contend with unrelenting internal violence, a military unwilling to cede full power to the civilian government, and a political structure reeking with corruption and nepotism.
Jokowi’s rise to power has been gradual, and based on considerations of merit, not any on allegiance to military or any prominent political family. The rise of an outsider in Indonesian politics is, therefore, a very healthy sign. He still had to lean on a mainstream political party to ascend the national stage. But, his long march to write his name in Indonesian history starts now. He has to deliver on the promises he has made. PDP-I, the political coalition that backed Jokowi, is unwieldy. It has just 207 seats in the 560-seat House of Representatives. The Opposition coalition has 353 seats. So, Jokowi will have his hands full. He must be working on his priorities as he awaits his formal swearing in scheduled for October this year.