Joko Widodo, who swept into office in 2012 as the populist governor of Jakarta, is claiming victory in Indonesia's Presidential election, which concluded yesterday.
Although the final results won't be tallied for a weeks, unofficial numbers suggest that Mr. Joko, known by the moniker, "Jokowi," maintains between a 4 and 6 percentage point lead over his opponent, former army general Prabowo Subianto. Mr. Subianto, who has also tentatively claimed victory, has said his campaign will wait for the final results before making an official announcement as to a winner.
Indonesia's new leader will replace outgoing President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who leaves office with low popularity and an economy facing immense challenges. This is only the third democratic presidential election in the country's history.
According to the World Bank the national growth rate, which has slowed to 5-6 percent, can't provide jobs for the roughly 15 million Indonesians joining the workforce. Meanwhile, an estimated 100 million still live on $2 or less a day, a narrative that Mr. Joko, known as an advocate for income inequality, has stressed.
With his campaign slogan of "People First," Jokowsi comes across as an everyman. As governor of Jakarta, Indonesia's largest city, he is known for making frequent visits to the city's poorest areas and talking to ordinary, working class individuals about bread and butter issues such as healthcare, jobs, and political corruption. His career as a furniture salesman fueled his common sense policy prescriptions. Mr. Joko can relate to citizens about the inefficiency of the Indonesian bureaucracy as well as workplace problems like excessive regulation and complicated licensing.
Mr. Joko's hands on-style and flare for optics has made him a popular public figure. In an effort to bring public awareness to traffic congestion in Jakarta he bikes to work every Friday, something that has attracted crowds and cameras. His youth, charm, and charisma have even garnered comparisons to Barack Obama.
“The problem is out there,” Jokowsi told The Independent. “Every day I go to the people, go to the street. I can ask the people what they want, what they need.”
Meanwhile for many Indonesians, Mr. Subianto, the son-in-law of infamous Indonesian authoritarian leader Suharto, represents a continuation of the past.
His campaign emphasizes competence and strength over youth and inexperience, someone who can bring strong leadership to the highest levels of government. Although he has faced accusations of human rights violations as an army general, Subianto continued to emphasize his military career as a positive in the campaign.
Earlier this year, Mr. Joko was leading Mr. Subianto by over 20 percentage points but false rumors that he was ethnically Chinese and a Christian (a political problem in an overwhelmingly Muslim country) had tightened the race on the eve of the election, with some polls showing narrow single digit leads according to CNN.