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Straight-talking Ahok takes
lead in Jakarta

From their first day in office, Jakarta Governor Joko “Jokowi” Widodo and Deputy Governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama have evinced a leadership style that has taken the city by surprise.

Since their inauguration on Oct. 15, Jokowi, surprisingly, has been the low-key member of the duo, while Ahok has been the straight-talking point man in an unprecedented display of teamwork.

Such teamwork was seen during a recent meeting the governor convened with senior civil servants at City Hall.

While Ahok was still busy in his office, Jokowi opened the meeting. But when the governor left to go to another meeting at the Transportation Ministry, Ahok walked in and — without pause or delay — took over as the meeting’s chairman.

Jakarta Transportation Agency chief Udar Pristono said that Jokowi and Ahok complement each other more than the city’s previous chief executives. “Pak Jokowi will often go out in the field and get to know the real problems around the city, while Pak Ahok will work on how to handle the problems, especially on allocating the budget efficiently for the problems,” Udar told The Jakarta Post earlier this week.

While declining to compare the teamwork of the governor and vice governor to that of their predecessors, Fauzi Bowo and Prijanto, Fauzi’s first deputy, Udar acknowledged that things were not the same. “It’s definitely a different time now. Pak Fauzi worked mostly alone during his tenure, while Pak Jokowi and Pak Ahok work hand in hand.”

Fauzi ended his term on a sour note with Prijanto, who resigned only months before Fauzi stood for reelection in July and almost 10 months before the end of his term.

Prijanto’s resignation capped several years of rumors of a widening rift between Fauzi and his deputy. Prijanto later published a book in which he accused Fauzi of corruption.

Unlike the city’s previous deputy governors, Ahok has shared the limelight with his boss equally. Some say that Ahok may have received even more attention.

Earlier this week, local social media was abuzz with comments on Ahok’s no-nonsense attitude displayed in a meeting with officials from the Public Works Agency that was uploaded to YouTube.

In the Nov. 8 meeting, Ahok demanded that the agency officials cut all project budgets by 25 percent. “If you don’t agree with me, then argue with me. I know it can be done. If you don’t agree you can get out of the office,” Ahok told the officials.

The deputy governor also spoke unusually frankly to MH Thamrin state high school principal Djumadi, who told Ahok not to be surprised if school quality goes down if educational operating funds are cut. “How many trillions do you need, Pak?” quipped Ahok, as reported by tempo.co on Wednesday. “We can find principals who want to maintain school quality with the money available.”

Last month, another video of Ahok slamming a subordinate for not using a computer to take meeting minutes also generated a slew of comments on Twitter.

Ahok’s direct speech garnered praise online. Joko Anwar, one of the nation’s most prolific and prominent Twitter users, said on the website that: “I’m never bored with the Ahok video blasting the Public Works Agency. It’s like a movie.” Meanwhile, radio personality Arie Dagienkz said on Twitter that the video was “cool”, adding that “those who haven’t watched it should”.

The deputy governor said, “This is just the way I am. I cannot talk as smoothly [halus] as Pak Jokowi does, but at least I am talking straight. I know people cannot easily accept me. I have a lot of enemies; this I know.”

Ahok confirmed that Jokowi, who, as a native of Central Java has a reputation for extreme politeness, was the good cop in handling the administration. Ahok is the bad cop. “I have been given the task to be the one who handles the less comfortable things,” he said.

University of Indonesia public policy analyst Andrinof Chaniago said that Ahok’s no-nonsense approach was an improvement for the city bureaucracy.

“It takes drastic measures to make drastic changes, especially in managing Jakarta’s budget and its bureaucracy,” Andrinof said.

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