Leader Spotlight: Joko Widodo
Name: Joko Widodo (also known as Jokowi)
Country: Republic of Indonesia
Party: PDI-P (Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle)
Ideology: Grassroots liberalism, Pan-Asianism
(Source: Wikimedia Commons)
Rise to power: President Joko Widodo was born and raised in the city of Surakarta (also known as Solo), living in a slum for much of his childhood. He started his career as a worker in his grandfather’s furniture factory after studying forestry and raw materials management and gained enough experience to open his own furniture company. After nearly going bankrupt, Widodo started exporting his products very successfully around the world, and as a result of his rise, became the chairman of the Surakarta’s furniture manufacture association in 2002. By 2005, he had entered the world of politics and was elected the mayor of Surakarta for seven years and under his leadership, the city saw rapid development and improvements. Riding on a wave of massive popular support, Joko Widodo was elected the Governor of Jakarta in 2012. During his tenure in this role, he repeated many of his popular policies from his time as the mayor of Surakarta while also coming off as a “man of the people”. Joko Widodo gained extensive popular support across the country as Governor of Jakarta, and in 2014, he was selected by the PDI-P party as their nominee for President of Indonesia. He won a close election the same year, despite the opposition candidate’s claims that the results of the election were inaccurate and invalid.
Three Recent Policy Issues:
Infrastructure Development: One of Joko Widodo’s primary accomplishments has been the development of massive infrastructure projects throughout Indonesia. An example of this, the Trans-Java Toll Road, is close to completion, stretches from east to west across 750 miles. The road links the whole of the world’s most populous island and is one of many large projects being undertaken across the country, which include new airports, railroad lines, and paved highways, all aiming to connect the vast island nation and to help stimulate economic growth across the country.
President Widodo Gives a Speech at Kertajati International Airport (Source: Wikimedia Commons)
Humanitarian Aid: Refusing to be a recipient of humanitarian aid, President Widodo has strived to turn Indonesia into a major provider of humanitarian aid around the world. During the Rohingya refugee crisis, Indonesia sent aid to refugee camps in Bangladesh, and took in refugees to be resettled in the northern Aceh province. In addition, President Widodo has stepped up Indonesia’s peacekeeping efforts in Afghanistan and has set up an international aid agency with a budget of nearly $70 million. This is all in an effort to place Indonesia as a dominant player in the regional and global stage.
President Widodo Meets with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani in 2018 (Source: Wikimedia Commons)
Drugs: Even though little evidence exists pointing towards a major narcotics problem in his country, President Widodo has called drug use a serious issue that must be dealt with in Indonesia. President Widodo has promised numerous times to clamp down on drug dealing and smuggling through lengthy jail sentences and judicial executions of many people charged with narcotics-related offenses. This includes the infamous Bali Nine, a group of Australian citizens charged with smuggling 18 pounds of heroin, despite protests from the Australian government. In addition, he has allowed authorities to shoot suspects on sight-on-scene, telling authorities to “shoot them [drug dealers] because we are indeed in a narcotics emergency situation now,” garnering international condemnation.
Most Notable Accomplishment: During his tenure as mayor of Surakarta, President Widodo completely transformed and modernized the infrastructure of the city. He has been recognized as one of the best mayors of Indonesia multiple times and has won numerous other awards for his initiatives from publications around the country. He was reelected to this position with over 90% of the votes and was ranked as the third best mayor in the world by the International City Mayors Foundation.
Most Infamous Position: In 2016, President Widodo supported a series of laws toughening sentencing for certain crimes, including allowing for the chemical castration of pedophiles. He said in an interview with BBC that “chemical castration, if we enforce it consistently, will reduce sex crimes and wipe them out over time.” In response, the Indonesian Doctors Association said that no doctors would be allowed to perform chemical castration for the government, as it goes against their mandate to do no harm.
President Widodo is a huge hard rock music fan, and among his most prized gifts is signed memorabilia from the band Metallica, including a bass guitar and a vinyl box set of Master of Puppets.
President Widodo has a personal YouTube channel in which he often posts vlogs of his policies, as well as meeting with Indonesians, which he uses as a way to reach out directly to his constituents.
President Widodo got his nickname “Jokowi” from working at his furniture company. When a French supplier accidentally sent him an order for another man named Joko, he then referred to him as “Jokowi” after that incident in order to avoid future mix-ups.