- In-Country Power
- International Power
- Military Strength
- Special Skill: Indonesian Interlocutor
- Official Title: President
- Government: Established democracy
- Years Left in Office: To 2019; re-election possible
- Political Classification: Center-right
- Education: BS in Foresty
- Age: 60 (born June 21, 1961)
Joko Widodo Facts and Information
- Joko Widodo is the 7th President of Indonesia
- Indonesia is the fourth largest country in the World in terms of population, ranked right behind the United States.
- Indonesia is growing into a serious second tier world economy, already a G-20 member, and regional powerhouse in its own right.
- Widodo is the first president of Indonesia not to be from the country’s political elite.
- Widodo’s background as a businessman makes him unique from his predecessors.
- Widodo is a man of the people and believes in direct interaction with them.
A Widodo Intro….
When one thinks of the World’s most populous countries, China, India and the United States immediately comes to mind. What is the next populous country after that? If you can’t come up with the answer in a few minutes, no one would blame you. The answer is Indonesia, the country in between the Asia and Australia continents. Who is the man at the helm for Indonesia? Joko Widodo. For the purposes of this piece, we will call the main man ‘Jokowi,’ (pronounced: Joe-Ko-Wee) the name that has been bestowed upon him by his own people.
Before delving into Jokowi, one needs to have a crash course on the country of Indonesia. Known as the Dutch East Indies, Indonesia was the location where the Dutch East India Company was set up in the 1600s. The vast country and its millions of islands were (and still are) rich in resources, such as coffee beans, nutmeg, cloves and a vast array of different peppers. After a brief occupation by Japan during World War II, Indonesia declared its independence. However the Dutch weren’t having any of it, and sought to re-assume power over Indonesia by force. After four long years of conflict and war, the Dutch officially recognized Indonesia as an independent and sovereign country.
The liberator of Indonesia from the Dutch was Sukarno. One name: Sukarno. Like Madonna. How kick ass is that? He helped establish the foundation for modern day Indonesia, but rather embracing democracy, Sukarno reversed course and embraced full-on dictatorship. In 1967, Sukarno was ousted by Indonesia’s top military guy Suharto (Another guy with only one name! Uni-names are the hot Indo-trend!). Suharto widely won support of the people and foreign powers by saying no to communism, but at the same time, constructing a strong, military centered government. Seeking the resources and embracing the West helped Suharto maintain rule for 30+ years until the Asian Economic Crisis in the late 1990s ousted him from office (during the crisis, the Indonesian currency devalued nine-fold. There was certainly an excess of toilet paper during that time!). After Suharto’s collapse, Indonesia fully embraced democracy, having its first full fledged democratic elections in its existence. This leads us to Jokowi.
A Man of Action
Prior to his entrance into politics, Jokowi, having majored in forestry, entered the wood and timber industry as a businessman after a short stint as a carpenter. After working for his uncle, Jokowi opened his own business and while it was successful, it was ultimately close due to fraud. He got back up on his feet though and through borrowed money, he was able to experience success by opening a second company. In 2005, he entered the world of politics, running for mayor in his hometown Surakarta. Many naysayers questioned whether or not a businessman could succeed in politics but Jokowi proved his critics wrong. After a year as mayor, Jokowi enjoyed widespread support of the people, owing to his close interactions with his constituents. He was able to revolutionize the city of Sukharta, transforming it from a closed-off, primitive town into a modern, efficient city, similar to well planned cities in Europe. While being very open to the ideas of his people, Jokowi demanded allegiance and results. When the power company served his office with an overdue bill of almost $1 million dollars, Jokowi demanded all street lamps be shuttered in order to stop the rising debt and also showed up personally to pay off the bills. This further reinforced the notion Jokowi is a can-do kind of politician, and not just maintaining day to day tasks from behind the scenes. Widodo is definitely no ‘do-do’ (as in the bird).
After two terms as mayor, Jokowi ran for and was elected governor of Jakarta, the capital of Indonesia. As governor, Jokowi oversaw the installation of a universal health care program for Jakarta’s people, the inauguration of a mass transit system (or subway), the initiation of sewage improvement systems and the modernization of Jakarta to an international metropolitan city. Jokowi ran Jakarta the only way he knew, with action and total transparency. Heck, he even embraced technology by uploading video of all of his public appearances to YouTube!
Due to his overwhelming surge of popularity, Jokowi was nominated to be his party’s candidate for President. During his campaign, many Indonesians saw the race as between the new and the old, his opponent being a holdover of the Suharto era. Having fought a tough race and needing a second round of election approvals, Jokowi declared victory and became Indonesia’s 7th President. At his inauguration speech, he spoke of an unbelievable ride, claiming he never envisioned a person like himself, from the working class, to ever become president. He spoke of the “Indonesian Dream” and for the people to pursue this dream. Fact: Jokowi is the first Indonesian president not to have any military background or of the political elite.
What is in store for Widodo?
One may think Indonesia, being located relatively out of the way of Asian countries, is insulated from regional issues. That is definitely not the case.
Just four months into his term, two Australian nationals were sentenced to death by an Indonesian high court. Australia lodged a formal complaint against the Indonesian government, after a prisoner swap negotiation failed between both countries, claiming Indonesia had no jurisdictional authority to execute the two. The two Australians, who were a part of a group of nine, were arrested in 2006 for their role in trying to smuggle almost 20 pounds of drugs from Indonesia to Australia. The nine have been in an Indonesian prison ever since. For Jokowi’s part, he has shown no signs of compromise to cave to Australian demands. Just this past December, Indonesia executed six people, including five foreigners, suspected of drug trafficking. However, facing a substantial regional partner and a relatively close neighbor, it remains to be seen if Jokowi will give the final order for the two Australian nationals to be executed, or if he will cave to international pressure (Jokowi has granted clemency to three others in the Bali Nine group, but the two in question remain on Indonesia’s death row).
On the environmental front, Indonesia is projected to overtake Brazil as the global leader in deforestation. By some statistics, Indonesia has already overtaken Brazil in this category. The ultimate culprit lies with the government’s inability to control the illegal deforestation which happens within country territories. Also, the government’s work is cut out for them, as Indonesia covers a wide expanse of territory stretching as far as Russia, from a distance perspective (they obviously do not cover as much land as Russia does).
A new era has started in Indonesia with a new man. The new face of Indonesia is a certainly can-do kind of person and so far, it appears he can handle the pressure. You will certainly want to keep tabs on the man they call ‘Jokowi.’ The Indonesian dream has just begun!
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