Joko Widodo, known as Jokowi, is a man on a mission. Since he was elected governor of Jakarta in October 2012, he has undertaken a gruelling daily schedule in his efforts to make the city more liveable for its 10 million residents.
The 52-year-old’s seemingly bottomless reserves of energy have been put to the test – Jakarta has no shortage of pressing issues – but his efforts are paying dividends. Everywhere Jokowi goes, people swarm around him. His popularity has risen so rapidly that he is tipped to become Indonesia’s next president when elections are held in July.
101 East gains exclusive access to follow Jokowi as he tackles Jakarta’s most urgent problems. We reveal his unique style of governing, the challenges he faces and the character of the man expected to become the next leader of the world’s largest Muslim country. We explore Jokowi’s unorthodox approach to tackling Indonesia’s endemic corruption and inefficient bureaucracy – factors analysts say have long impeded the country’s economic growth.
Jokowi, a former furniture dealer, has developed a reputation as a clean politician in a country where citizens have grown weary of corrupt public officials. Even lazy government workers do not escape his wrath when he makes surprise visits to government offices as part of his war on corruption and bureaucratic inefficiency.
With the mega-city of Jakarta notorious for traffic snarls that stretch for miles, Jokowi is trying to improve infrastructure. He has also been known to jump out of his governor’s car and onto the back of a motorbike to beat the gridlock, winning support among frustrated commuters.
A regular visitor to slum areas, Jokowi has introduced free healthcare and education as part of his efforts to reduce poverty. We speak with some of the residents who have benefited from these programmes. We also get to know him off-the-job as he enjoys some down time with his favourite music: heavy metal. He has loved bands like Metallica since he was a young boy and it is still the music he tunes to as he rushes from one appointment to the next.
We trace Jokowi’s humble beginnings as the son of a carpenter, visiting his hometown of Surakarta, the city also known as Solo in Central Java. This is where his political career kicked off when he was elected mayor in 2005. He received much acclaim for transforming Surakarta during his term. We meet his mother and friends who knew him as a boy, and they tell us about an ordinary young man, who they never imagined would one day be a presidential candidate.
But despite the frenzy and solid support from the people, critics say Jokowi is untested and out of his league when it comes to leading a nation of 240 million people.
In this episode, 101 East cuts through the hype surrounding Jakarta’s popular governor to ask: Does Jokowi have what it takes to become Indonesia’s next president?
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