Background: President Widodo is the first Indonesian president not to be from the military or the political elite. He comes from a humble background of Javanese descent. His father had a small furniture business, which often couldn’t make ends meet. They struggled to put him through university, where he graduated in the field of forestry. After graduation, Widodo worked for three years in the forestry service of a state enterprise in Aceh before returning to his family business.
Successful and ‘Clean’ Politician: Widodo was the mayor of Surakarta before becoming the governor of Jakarta in September 2012. As a successful mayor, he enjoyed a close relationship with his constituents. He focused on promoting the city as a centre of Javanese culture, but also developed the public transport system, healthcare and business relations with the community. He forged a reputation for being a ‘clean’ politician, avoiding the charges of corruption and nepotism which plague most politicians.
Governor of Jakarta: His political success continued with his election as governor of Jakarta. He was equally successful as governor, making meaningful reforms in education, public transportation, revamping street vendors and traditional markets, and implementing flood control.
Presidential candidacy: Various awards (3rd place of the 2012 World Mayor Prize, one of the ‘Top 10 Indonesian Mayors of 2008’) testified to his success as mayor and governor, and there was little surprise when Megawati Sukarnoputri, the former President of Indonesia, chose Widodo to be the presidential candidate of the PDI-P party. He has also enjoyed the support of many musicians and artists (he himself is reported to enjoy heavy metal music), and this helped him greatly on his presidential campaign.
Blusukan Culture: President Widodo has become well-known for impromptu visits to see and hear directly from people in local communities. This has allowed him to directly address their concerns and criticisms, allowing him to develop a strong personal relationship with the public.
Future Prospects: Although economic growth has not been as expected, strong investment in infrastructure and social services ensure that Widodo still enjoys strong support amongst the populace. He is also still seen as an honest leader and oversaw a successful 2018 Asian Games in Jakarta.
Covid-19: Slow response and initial concern about effect on economy meant social distancing and other measures came in late. Also difficult to implement given the size of the country.