Jakarta governor to lead country next?

POPULAR: Jakarta Governor Joko "Jokowi" Widodo, 51, has a reputation for clean, can-do governance.


    Jun 03, 2013

    Jakarta governor to lead country next?

    UNATTENDED by bodyguards, Jakarta Governor Joko "Jokowi" Widodo edged through a scrum of well-wishers, wearing a spotless white shirt and the sort of unfaltering grin that makes a normal man's face ache.

    He is a wildly-popular leader in a country where scandal has tarnished or toppled almost every leading politician, including President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and those vying to replace him in next year's election.

    Mr Widodo's rise has been formidable. So, too, is the task of fixing a city whose problems are holding back one of Asia's largest and fastest-growing economies.

    Mr Widodo, 51, is a former furniture salesman who grew up in a riverside slum in Surakarta, better known as Solo, a once-declining city in Central Java where he was elected mayor in 2005.

    Over the next seven years, he cut crime, revived the local economy and gained a reputation for clean, can-do governance that propelled him into Jakarta's City Hall last October.

    Mr Widodo's plans for the Indonesian capital are even more ambitious. He vows to solve its chronic flooding, alleviate its maddening traffic and re-house more than a million slum-dwellers.

    "My inspiration is the people," he said. "I think we can solve our problems here."

    In a country where political parties are distinguished not by policies but by personalities, Mr Widodo seems a shoo-in for president - if he decides to run. For now, he says he will concentrate on Jakarta.

    His party, Indonesia Democratic Party-Struggle (PDI-P), may have other ideas. Its leader is former president Megawati Sukarnoputri, the daughter of Indonesian independence hero Sukarno.

    "Megawati doesn't want to stand next year," said a senior party official, a Megawati confidant who spoke on condition of anonymity. "We don't want to announce it yet,'s clear that, in the party, everyone has Jokowi in mind."

    Even so, the PDI-P will announce Mr Widodo's candidacy as late as possible, said the senior party official. "If we announce it now, everyone will make him a target and gun him down between now and next year."

    Many supporters still hope Mr Widodo will save any presidential bid for 2019.

    "Jakarta still needs him," said Mr Budi Adiputro, a 26-year-old journalist.