Asia

Profile: Joko Widodo

  • 28 September 2015
  • From the section Asia
Indonesian President Joko Widodo waves to the crowd while on his journey to Presidential Palace by carriage during the ceremonial parade on 20 October 2014 in Jakarta, Indonesia. Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Mr Widodo won support partly due to his likeable and humble demeanour

Joko Widodo was elected as Indonesia's president in July 2014, in a win that marked a sea change in the country's politics.

Also known as Jokowi, Mr Widodo - a former entrepreneur and governor of Jakarta - comes from a humble background and stood in sharp contrast to the country's previous prime ministers who hailed from the political and military elite.

He was elected on a wave of support, particularly from the youth, for his promise of change and reputation as a clean politician. Though he remains popular, criticism of his administration has mounted following recent policy stumbles and slower economic growth.

Rise to the top

Image copyright AP
Image caption Mr Widodo's popularity grew because of measures such as relocating slum-dwellers and boosting small businesses

Born in 1961 in Solo, a city in the centre of Java, Mr Widodo is the son of a wood-seller.

The furniture-maker began his political career with the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDIP) when he was elected mayor of Solo in 2005.

Mr Widodo then went on to run for the position of Jakarta's governor, winning a resounding victory in 2012.

He was seen to empathise with the poor and grew in popularity with measures such as relocating slum-dwellers and boosting small businesses.

He campaigned for the presidency on a platform of stamping out corruption, nepotism and intolerance - and pushed for investment in education, meritocracy and increased use of technology in governance.

He won the presidential election with a decisive victory over former general Prabowo Subianto.

At Mr Widodo's inauguration in October 2014, he urged for a spirit of unity and hard work, and promised to restore national pride as well as build a stronger maritime presence.

But critics warned that he lacked experience in national politics and international relations.

Shaky first year

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Mr Widodo faced faced international pressure to free Australian drug traffickers Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan

Mr Widodo's administration has had a shaky start, with critics saying it has been marked by muddled policymaking, questionable political appointments, and lack of leadership.

His government rushed into some policies, such as banning the sale of alcohol in small shops and mandating Indonesian proficiency among foreign workers, only to backtrack on them later due to their unpopularity or unfeasibility.

Economic growth has continued to slow, and while Mr Widodo has blamed it on the global slowdown, some say that his economic team are also to blame. He has since reshuffled his cabinet.

He has however pushed for long overdue reform, such as a cut in fuel subsidies, initiated more infrastructure projects to improve transportation, and launched a stimulus package.

Image copyright EPA
Image caption Mr Widodo has also taken a tougher stance on the yearly haze from forest fires, with authorities prosecuting companies and individuals for illegal burning

Mr Widodo met with his first international controversy in April 2015 when he faced global pressure to pardon two Australian members of the Bali Nine drug smuggling ring from the death sentence. But Mr Widodo refused, saying a hardline stance against drugs was necessary to protect Indonesia.

At home, his proposal to appoint Budi Gunawan, a former suspect in a corruption probe, as the chief of police was met with widespread outrage. He later backed down and made Mr Gunawan deputy chief.

Despite such controversies, he remains popular with ordinary Indonesians hoping to see more from the man whom they have pinned their hopes on for a better Indonesia.