Joko Widodo: A president who gets along with the people and listens to Metallica


JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — Joko Widodo has enjoyed an unprecedented rise from the riverside slum where he grew up. Indonesian presidency It highlighted how far the world’s third-largest democracy had moved from its brutal authoritarian era a decade ago.

with him Second and final five-year term Set to expire in October, Widodo – regarded by some as Asia’s Barack Obama – is leaving a legacy of impressive economic growth and an ambitious series of infrastructure projects, on top of which he plans to transfer $33 billion to . To Indonesia’s crowded capital, the frontier island of Borneo.

When Widodo first won the presidency in 2014, he was dismissed as a political lightweight by rivals. He built a reputation as a soft-spoken reformer who used abundant resources and tourism to boost Indonesia’s economy. It promised to fight poverty and inequalities by harnessing the attraction, which is the largest in the Southeast. Asia. He served as mayor of the city of Solo, where he was born into a working-class family in huts built illegally along a river, then became governor of the capital, Jakarta, before winning his first presidential term.

Widodo was The first Indonesian president to emerge from out of the political and military elite. But critics say he thrived on political compromises, courted political party supporters and accommodated former generals who served under late authoritarian leader Suharto. His pragmatic deals reduced opposition to his leadership, but also endangered Indonesia’s fragile democracy, which brought an ordinary man like him, the son of a lumber salesman, to power.

Forging political compromises in the world’s largest archipelagic country with deep religious, ethnic and economic divisions has been a constant struggle even for previous leaders.

Widodo was widely criticized when he appointed Prabowo Subianto, his main challenger in two presidential elections in 2019, as defense minister. After winning his second term.

“I know some people call me a fool, a fool, an ignoramus, a pharaoh, a fool,” Widodo said in an address to the nation last year. “I am heartbroken that the humble culture and great characters of this country have been lost. Freedom and democracy are used to remove malice and slander.”

Special Forces General Subianto, accused of human rights atrocities during the Suharto era, is now at the forefront of this case. February 14 election. His vice-presidential candidate is Widodo’s eldest son, Gibran Rakabuming Raka, mayor of Widodo’s hometown of Surakarta in Central Java province.

Widodo’s son did not meet the age requirement of 40 for his candidacy, but the Constitutional Court, headed by the president’s brother-in-law, made an exception in a ruling last year.

A group of critics is considering an impeachment complaint against Widodo but legal experts say it is unlikely to succeed. He is still popular and is dominated by his allies in Parliament.

Widodo, also known as Jokowi, now 62, created an image of an Indonesian with a soft spot for the lower class and simple lifestyle, which resonated with a broad base of ordinary voters. used to have.

He would often mingle with the working-class crowd wearing cheap sneakers and rolled-up sleeves to probe their concerns. He took selfies with crowds of journalists and is one of the biggest fans of American heavy metal band Metallica, whose concerts in the Indonesian capital he saw when he was governor of Jakarta.

Widodo has enjoyed consistently high approval ratings of more than 70% in recent months, an impressive feat in the final years of a decade-long presidency. This also makes him a powerful election lobbyist, a kingmaker, despite legal prohibitions against this practice. Opponents have accused him of secretly using his influence to support his son and Subianto to create a new political dynasty.

He laughed off the allegations and called on Indonesians to help the next leaders pursue reforms to boost economic growth.

Widodo’s major projects focused on connecting the country of more than 17,000 islands with bridges, high-speed trains, toll roads, ports and airports.

“Jokowi is not a perfect leader, but he is still the best leader we have ever had,” said Jakarta resident Dwi Mustikarini. “He made Indonesia better and world leaders respect him, but unfortunately, his political ambitions are at the heart of the dynasty.” It was an obstacle for him to end his reign with a soft landing.

With the aim of generating more revenue and job opportunities, Widodo banned the export of selected raw materials such as nickel ore and encouraged their local processing to get better prices in foreign markets.

To lure investors and tourists and boost development and employment beyond traffic-laden and congested places like Jakarta, he initiated one of the most ambitious and controversial projects of his presidency: expanding the capital by about 2,000 kilometers (1,240 mi). miles) away to relocate to Borneo. , a vast area of ​​lush tropical rainforest where orangutans roam.

In mid-2022, construction of the new capital began, despite warnings from environmental activists about large-scale deforestation and protests from indigenous communities. It is envisioned as a futuristic green city that is almost twice the size of New York. A grand opening is planned for Indonesia’s Independence Day on August 17, but officials say the final phase of the city is not likely to be completed until 2045.

Under Widodo, Indonesia saw remarkable growth averaging 5% annually, except in 2020, when the economy shrank due to the coronavirus pandemic.

His economic roadmap, called “Golden Indonesia 2045”, projects Indonesia is becoming one of the top five economies in the world With a GDP of up to $9 trillion, just a century after gaining independence from Dutch colonialists.

Widodo said in a speech last year that this could be achieved if future leaders muster the courage to take “difficult and unpopular decisions” and garner the support of various sectors. He warned that missing the opportunity could lead Indonesia back to instability.

Focusing primarily on domestic issues, the Bahasa-speaking Widodo also played a role on the world stage, where he often spoke through an interpreter and at times appeared uncomfortable with formalities and protocol.

In 2022, he became the first Asian leader to meet Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in Kiev and later Russian leader Vladimir Putin in Moscow to help encourage both foes to start talks.

Later that year, he hosted the G20 summit of major rich and developing countries. In a delicate balancing act, he met President Joe Biden at the White House for talks on boosting defense cooperation after meeting Chinese President Xi Jingping in China to expand trade and investment.

Asked by reporters what he would do when he leaves office, Widodo said he plans to return to his hometown, where his political journey began, to his family and take an active role in protecting the environment.

“That’s the plan,” Widodo told Bloomberg Television in a recent interview. “But sometimes, plans can change.”


Associated Press writer Jim Gomez contributed to this report.


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