In the wake of corruption cases implicating several leaders from the top political parties and the absence of fresh candidates, Jakarta Governor Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s name is being bounced about by the public as an alternative candidate for next year’s presidential election.
Various media reports, and at least three polls, show that Jokowi — the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) member who assumed the Jakarta governor post in October last year — is the figure many people want to see as president.
Jokowi’s modest life style quickly won the hearts of Jakartans: His healthcare and education programs and his readiness to hold public dialogues and meet his constituents endeared him further. The victory of the then-Surakarta mayor to beat incumbent Jakarta governor Fauzi Bowo in last year’s election also drew nationwide attention.
Jokowi on Thursday played down the possibility of candidacy next year. He told journalists that solving the capital’s urban issues was his main priority at the moment.
On the same day, on the sidelines of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s return from his eight-day foreign trip at Halim Perdanakusuma Air Force Base in East Jakarta, Jokowi said he “only deals with traffic congestion and floods and doesn’t want to think about anything else”.
In response to whether or not he would enter the 2019 presidential race if he solved Jakarta’s two main problems Jokowi, laughed and reiterated “I’m only taking care of traffic jams and floods.”
The polls consistently show that Jokowi even beat Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) chairwoman and former president Megawati Soekarnoputri, and Great Indonesia Movement Party (Gerindra) chief patron Lt. Gen. (ret.) Prabowo Subianto.
In October 2012, a study by the National Survey Institute (LSN) had shown Jokowi to be among those to be reckoned with as he was able to attract the sympathy of the public. Another survey by the Indonesian Youth Alliance for Change (API Perubahan) in December found that among the younger demographic, Jokowi was the most popular candidate for the 2014 presidential election “as young people really want change”.
Also in late 2012, another survey, compiled by the Poll Tracking Institute in Jakarta, said Jokowi topped a list of young potential candidates for the 2014 poll: As many as 78 percent of the respondents viewed Jokowi favorably.
PDI-P executive Tjahjo Kumolo said it would not be a good maneuver for Jokowi to run for president in the upcoming election.
“Let him finish his work to improve Jakarta first; it’s only been a few months,” he told The Jakarta Post on Thursday.
Political observer Gun Gun Heryanto of Paramadina University said Jokowi would be a great figure for the public for the 2019 poll, not the 2014.
“If he finishes his gubernatorial term [and the] public sees the results, he will set a standard that the party financial powers and political machines could not compete with,” he said.