Joko Widodo, who grew up in the city slums and worked as a small-business man and a carpenter, was just sworn in as president of Indonesia on Monday. He is the first president without ties to Indonesia’s military or political elite. Before becoming the president of the fourth most populous country in the world, he served as his hometown mayor. Indonesia is the world’s largest Muslim-majority nation and has the largest economy in all of Southeast Asia. Since elections on July 9, the country has experienced intense political turmoil, so finally that period is over.
Joko won against Prabowo Subianto, who was in a military office and is related to the late authoritarian president who was forced to resign. Prabowo, however, heads the opposition to Joko and controls a majority of seats and all the leadership positions in the House of Representatives. He has vowed to be obstructionist, opposing everything Joko does and accusing him of corruption. Although tensions run high between Joko and Prabowo, Prabowo attended the presidential inauguration and Joko referred to him as a “friend” during his speech.
During his time in office, Joko has promised to create a more “people-centric” government and to fight the growing disparity between the rich and the poor. In Indonesia, over 100 million people live on less than $2 a day. Many people see Joko’s victory over Prabowo as a battle between the commoner and the political elite and authoritarian past. Joko promised more government programs for farmers, fishermen, and other traditional laborers, and more money going towards healthcare and social services for those in poverty. He also wants to turn Indonesia into a “maritime power” since it is the worlds largest archipelago.
This has been a monumental and historic moment in Indonesian history; a positive and hopeful event for the common people and a troubling event for many of the country’s political and military elite.
Cochrane, Joe. “New Leader Takes Oath Of Office In Indonesia”. The New York Times. 21 April 2014. Print version.