Opinion

Jokowi, the forthcoming
president?

The name of Joko “Jokowi” Widodo has skyrocketed in the discourse of Indonesia’s presidential hopefuls. Even though his tenure as Jakarta governor is far from finished, some people have expressed their hope that the former Surakarta mayor will run in the forthcoming 2014 election.

The latest two opinion surveys reveal this phenomena. The first one was conducted by Pusat Data Bersatu (PDB — Integrated Data Center), a research institution headed by economist Didik J. Rachbini. The second survey was carried out by Lingkar Survey Jakarta (LSJ — Jakarta Survey Circle), a polling organization led by Rendy Kurnia.

In the PDB survey carried out in January 2013, Jokowi topped the list with 21.2 percent of respondents saying they would vote for him as the forthcoming president. Jokowi’s “performance” outnumbered other obvious candidates such as Prabowo Subianto of the Great Indonesia Movement Party (Gerindra), Megawati Soekarnoputri of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) or Aburizal Bakrie of the Golkar Party.

Similarly, Jokowi received the highest percentage of support in the LSJ survey, of which 18.1 percent of the respondents would choose Jokowi as Indonesia’s president if the election were carried out in February 2013.

Interestingly, the hope and analysis for Jokowi to be president in the near future does not only come from home. Even an intellectual forum at the prestigious Australian National University (ANU) in Canberra, to be held soon, put out a very inviting title: “Jokowi: Indonesia’s Next President”.

In short, there are more and more people, be they at home or abroad, who are hoping and predicting that Jokowi will be Indonesia’s next president, succeeding Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

While being one of the million fans of Jokowi, I would be rather careful in hoping or even encouraging Jokowi to run in the 2014 election. These thoughts are based on the following reasons. First, if Jokowi does, it means he will not have completed his gubernatorial duty in less than two years. Looking at the complicated challenges of Greater Jakarta, it will almost be impossible to see a much better Jakarta within this short period of servicing time.

Arguably Jokowi won the heart of Jakartans in the 2012 election not because of his supporting party, but due to the proven success of his leadership in Surakarta. But let us bear in mind that Jokowi took almost two terms of mayorship in improving conditions in Surakarta, a much smaller city in Central Java in comparison to Jakarta.

Jokowi’s leadership and approach on managing problems are indeed highly commendable. His blusukan (visiting villages and slums, often spontaneously), down-to-earth ways of public communication, and a composed leadership style deserve appreciation. Yet, real success in fixing Jakarta’s inherited problems such as floods, traffic congestion, and poor public services still needs to be seen.

Second, if Jokowi runs in 2014, he may face a risk of losing trust among some of the public as he once promised, in the 2012 campaign, to complete his five-year gubernatorial duty if elected. If he runs but does not succeed, it may jeopardize his chance for the 2019 election. Furthermore, no one can predict whether he will still be a “media darling” up to 2019, particularly if he lost the 2014 election.

It should be acknowledged that Jokowi these days is a natural media magnet. More and more of the public have fallen in love with him. This rising profile is further driven by the unfortunate situation faced by many political parties, either on corruption or the poor records of their presidential candidates.

Nevetheless, Indonesia will not sink even if the country is not run by Jokowi. The country has proven resilient before, including at one of the hardest times during the bloody political reform in the late 90s. Indonesia, too, has been led by the “once unexpected” names such as BJ Habibie, Abdurrahman “Gus Dur” Wahid, or even Yudhoyono. Yet, the country was and is still manageable, even though it has its ups and downs.

The last reason, and arguably the most important one, is that there is not an eligible political machinery that could nominate Jokowi (if later he decides to run in the 2014 election). And it is widely known that the majority of parties already have their own candidates. Even the PDI-P, a party that nominated Jokowi for Jakarta’s election, has stated a “No” to Jokowi.

In conclusion, it is better for Jokowi to focus on his current duty. If his leadership in Jakarta proves to be a great success, it is only a matter of time for him to be the first man in this country.

The writer is director of Projecting Indonesia.

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