A Forestry Department graduate who has spent most of his life as furniture exporter, Widodo, or Jokowi as he is known to his former business partners, is hardly the brightest or most talented person to be elected the president of Indonesia. His prior experience as a politician is somewhat limited, having served 7 years as major in the small town of Surakarta in Central Java and only 2 years as the governor of Jakarta.
However, after a long and bitter election, colored by countless smear campaigns and fraud accusations, Jokowi won over the people’s hearts, receiving 53 percent of the votes cast on July 9 to secure victory over fellow candidate Prabowo Subianto. Many point to Jokowi’s successes in preceding positions as a primary factor in tipping the scales.
During both his term as major and as governor, Jokowi introduced the concept of efficient and transparent bureaucracy to his administrations. He governed in a no-nonsense style, but at the same time treated people with empathy and fairness. He successfully transformed the organizations under his leadership with little or no major conflicts. These successes then became key stepping stones for his social security programs in healthcare and education for the poor.
In order to achieve these major changes in administration, Jokowi has changed the standard of public policy from an ‘implementation’ to a ‘negotiation’ paradigm. Jokowi treats his vision as a foundation to be discussed with his people, not something to be forced with his authority.
Indeed, the new president’s strength in facilitating discussion across groups seems unmatched, as is his energy in bringing other parties to be actively involved in decision making and project planning. He enjoys visiting project sites to monitor progress and engage in numerous dialogues with people in the surrounding area. A number of citizens have even been lucky enough to grab a ‘selfie’ with the President Elect.
In economic development as well, Jokowi demonstrates a change from some of his predecessors, operating under his belief in the power of his people. In addition, though strongly supportive of the people, his track record as businessman indicates that he is also open to cooperation with other parties if the deal is done fairly. He is eager to shorten investment procedures as well in order to speed up the progress of economic development.
During the presidential campaign, Jokowi’s party was well known for the participation of hundreds of thousands of volunteer workers. Around 2,000 voluntary groups supported Jokowi throughout the campaign, with the majority coming from middle class backgrounds, in particular from universities, creative industries, and the private sector.
Volunteer groups continued to play a major role even after the closing of the voting booths. When each of the candidates claimed victory based on quick count data, a small group of IT workers developed a website to monitor the vote recount being performed by the General Election Commission (KPU) and compare it to their own independent recount based on results from each polling station. The actions of this 700-person volunteer group served to soothe concerned citizens with the knowledge that accurate measures were being taken to resolve the conflicting reports.
The participation of Jokowi’s volunteers throughout and after the election may serve as signs of what his term as president may bring to the nation. He is firm in fighting for both national and his peoples’ interest, but at the same time open to inviting others to be involved, including foreign investors. To achieve his vision, Jokowi is willing to listen to his staff and other parties in order to get the best solution possible. In managing the bureaucracy, he embraces transparency, a competitive atmosphere, and the involvement of people from all different walks of life. In short, many may expect Jokowi’s term to be a symbol of the next stage of governing in Indonesia: an era of participation.
By Ismail Al Anshori