Joko Widodo, popularly known as Jokowi, has been declared the winner of Indonesia’s presidential elections by the country’s elections commission.
Some perspectives on what his election means for Indonesia — symbolically, in terms of his youth, image, and humble origins, but also practically, in terms of his track record of good governance, especially in terms of a focus on tackling corruption; in all, representing a forward-looking, reform-oriented outlook. This is even more so when contrasted with his opponent, Prabowo Subianto, who has strong connections with the old regime (he is/was the son-in-law of former president Suharto, and was a significant member of the Indonesian military leadership), and has made comments disparaging the democratic system itself.
Much of this, though, is more hopeful than necessarily realistic, especially given that Jokowi’s party, PDI-P, is the minority in the Indonesian parliamentary body, being part of the coalition that holds only about 1/3 of the seats. Many charismatic and promising leaders around the world have been voted into office with unrealistically high expectations of them, only to run into the problems of governing, both in terms of the complexity and difficulty of governance itself, but also in terms of navigating the politics of competing political interests, particularly long-standing, entrenched elements. Jokowi, who has often been termed ‘Indonesia’s Obama’ (primarily due to the facial resemblance), has perhaps a more substantial record of governance than Obama had when elected (and of course a very different political system), but faces a similar problem of overly high expectations.
Nevertheless, given Indonesia’s status as the largest country in Southeast Asia, just the prospect of greater reform and progress is something that draws attention; globally, as the most populous Muslim-majority country, it also represents hope for the viability of Islamic democracy. Indeed, as the fourth most populous country in the world overall, it has arguably vastly underperformed (especially when contrasted with China and India), and the promise of all that untapped economic potential will certainly be of great interest.