FIRST PERSON - Alex Magno - The Philippine Star

Joko Widodo, the next president of Indonesia, files his candidacy papers today. Just the indication that he would run for highest office pushed up the rupiah.

There is much we might learn here about the dynamics of electoral politics at this time, especially as we toil through the ruins of our pork barrel politics.

‘Jokowi” to his legions of admirers, Widodo served the past two years as governor of Jakarta. Before that, he served as mayor of Solo town in Central Java.

In just two years, shorter than the time needed to fix our airport terminal or acquire new trains for the MRT, Jokowi made distinct impact on the megalopolis he governed. In a very short time, everything seemed to have improved dramatically: traffic flow, social services, quality of life.

Because of his accomplishments as governor, calls for him to seek the highest office became audible since the start of the year. Today, he files his candidacy under the Democratic Party of Indonesia-Struggle (PDI-P), the party led by former president Megawati Sukarnoputrie (daughter of Sukarno). Megawati’s daughter will likely be Jokowi’s running mate.

Incumbent president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono steps down in a few months. Elections are scheduled for July with a run-off election to be held in September if no one wins an outright majority. The run-off election might be unnecessary as things are quickly shaping up to be a one-sided, two-candidate race.

Once a slam-bang affair involving the ten parties holding seats in the national assembly, the strong entry of Jokowi alters the old dynamic. A recent poll showed Jokowi holding a 15% lead over his closest rival. Unlike here were even aspirants holding single-digit voter support continue to maneuver to destroy the front-runner, the 15% lead enjoyed by Jokowi forces all other parties to seek coalition arrangements.

At the moment, the PDI-P is coalesced with three smaller parties. Together, they represent over a third of seats in the national assembly.

President Bambang, prefers that his party Golkar fields its own candidate. The vast majority of Golkar party, however, appears to have decided to go with Jokowi. Coalition talks have been underway. If those talks are successful by today, the grand coalition will represent over half of the national assembly and the bulk of the popular vote.

Golkar is the largest Indonesian party, having been the party of the late President Suharto who ruled this vast country for decades. Its current leader, and potential presidential contender, business tycoon Aburizal Bakrie trails pitifully in the surveys. Golkar party would rather not gamble on a Bakrie candidacy and ensure membership in the winning coalition by aligning with Jokowi. 

The only other challenger to Jokowi’s rise to the presidency of this sprawling nation is former general Prabowo Subianto. His Gerindra party holds 11.8% of the national assembly seats.

Subianto’s challenge appears puny in the face of Jokowi’s phenomenal rise. The governor of Jakarta is drawing support from the mass of younger voters disenchanted with the old generation of politicians associated with incompetence and corruption.

Jokowi is so unlike the politicians cut from old cloth. He is not haughty and aloof like the old powerbrokers. He is seen as a humble man with a common touch. He is not a politician delivering empty slogans and shiny shibboleths. He is constantly talking about what to do and then what to do next, this man of enviable executive credentials.

Before he was elected governor of Jakarta, Jokowi was a total outsider to Indonesian national politics. He did not come from a prominent family and was not a party player. It was his effective performance in his current post that caused his rise, like cream to the top.

He is the icon for a new public appreciation for evolving a meritocracy, a government populated by the most able instead of princelings from old oligarchic families.  

Nor might Jokowi be seen as a populist politician, promising the poor endless subsidies (as in cash transfers). He is a straight-talking administrator capable of convincing his constituency to accept things that simply have to be done.

In fact, as potential candidate, Jokowi boldly told his people that he would withdraw subsidies should he become president. Too, during his prospective presidency, he intends to shut down 90% of the diesel plants that now generate much of Indonesia’s electricity. The bulk of his work will be focused on building the modern infrastructure the Indonesian economy needs to be competitive with the rest of the world.

This is the reason why the markets love Jokowi, the reason why the rupiah rose even on the shadow of a prospective candidacy. The young and the modern in Indonesia love this man. He represents the future. He has demonstrated the work ethic a progressive presidency in an emerging economy needs.

The reason people call him by his nickname is that he is such a familiar and approachable personality. As governor of Jakarta, he is constantly in the streets, talking to people and inspecting projects. This is the sort of leader we need as well.


A new word is gaining currency in the language of American politics: ineptocracy. I believe the word originates from here.

One message shirt defines ineptocracy thus: A system of government where the least capable to lead are elected by the least capable of producing, and where the members of society least likely to sustain themselves or succeed are rewarded with the goods and services paid for by the confiscated wealth of a diminishing number of producers.

I want that t-shirt. It is so apt.


vuukle comment











  • Latest
  • Trending
Are you sure you want to log out?

Philstar.com is one of the most vibrant, opinionated, discerning communities of readers on cyberspace. With your meaningful insights, help shape the stories that can shape the country. Sign up now!

or sign in with