Out-of-towner Jokowi gaining in popularity
It was not until March that the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) and the Great Indonesia Movement (Gerindra) Party nominated Surakarta Mayor Joko “Jokowi” Widodo as their Jakarta gubernatorial candidate, yet in the short time since then, he has won the hearts of many residents.
Some surveys have seen the growing popularity of Jokowi among potential voters, including civil servants, although he was once considered a long-shot out-of-towner.
Joko “Jokowi” Widodo. JP/Tarko SudiarnoThe Indonesian Survey Circle (LSI) revealed its latest findings on Sunday, which showed that 20.9 percent of the survey’s 440 respondents would vote for Jokowi, and his running mate, Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama, up from 17 percent as recorded by its previous survey in April — the only candidate to increase in popularity. The same survey found that incumbent Governor Fauzi Bowo’s popularity slipped by 5.7 percent to 43.3 percent.
Survey organization Indo Barometer found that Jokowi’s popularity among civil servants in the city, which comprise 78,500 workers and one of the most important groups of voters, had surpassed Fauzi. The survey said that 33.3 percent of civil servants would vote for Jokowi while only 16.7 percent would opt for Fauzi, who is joined on the ballot by Democratic Party politician Nachrowi Ramli.
Jokowi’s candidacy came close on the heels of media reports about his efforts to promote the minivan built by Surakarta’s vocational high school students and his administration’s march to the electricity company to settle his offices’ overdue bill with small change. A tough act to follow, his success in relocating street vendors after 54 lunches has gathered buzz in the capital, where relocation issues often end in violent clashes.
Elected in 2005 as the mayor of Surakarta, commonly known as Solo, Jokowi brought no significant political experience with him. He was a successful furniture businessman before joining PDI-P as a cadre. Jokowi redesigned Surakarta as a city of art and culture and proposed that the city become a member of the Organization of World Heritage Cities. His proposal was approved in 2006.
Jokowi is also popular as an avid heavy metal music fan and did not hesitate to join the crowd during the Linkin Park in Jakarta last year. He declined to comment on the controversy over US pop diva Lady Gaga’s concert, because he was “more into Metallica, Judas Priest or Lamb of God” and was thinking of bringing them to the country for gigs.
Mira, a nurse in a public hospital in East Jakarta, said that she was a long-time admirer of the Surakarta mayor.
She hoped that if he was elected as governor, Jokowi could bridge the communication gap between various groups, from hard-liners to ethnic groups, and help ease social tension in the capital. “Whether we admit it or not, social tension in the capital is escalating. We need a leader who can calmly talk to people from different backgrounds.”
Another civil servant employed by the National Development Planning Board (Bappenas) said that he would vote for Jokowi because of his achievements as a mayor. “He is a good choice because he knows what is best for a city. He has created good sidewalks and large open-air spaces in Surakarta,” he said.
Both civil servants are Javanese, the largest ethnic group in the cosmopolitan city, making up 35.16 percent of the population. The native Betawi ethnic group is the second-largest with 27.65 percent, followed by West Java’s Sundanese with 15.27 percent.
Andrinof Chaniago, a political analyst from the University of Indonesia, said that civil servants’ tendency to vote for Jokowi was
“Civil servants will likely trust the candidate with a bureaucratic background, if not they don’t choose the incumbent,” he said.
Jokowi’s strength, Andrinof said, was his way of leading people. “He doesn’t look bossy or demanding — people may like that,” he said. “He presents a different way of governing.”
Jokowi’s reputation for cutting through bureaucratic red tape would also raise his popularity among voters, even though his actions could create conflicts with other leaders.
In 2011, Jokowi rejected some investors who planned to build shopping centers in some of Surakarta’s heritage buildings, even though the investors had secured a permit from Central Java Governor Bibit Waluyo.
Handi Prawira, who owns three shops in South Jakarta, hoped that Jokowi would still think like a businessman should he win the election. “No candidate has elaborated their business planning, but I may consider Jokowi [as Jakarta governor] if he would support the business community,” he said.