The Jakarta Post
The accomplishments and popularity of Jakarta Governor Joko 'Jokowi' Widodo may not have been possible without the men and women who have positioned the former furniture businessman as a strong contender for the 2014 presidential race. The Jakarta Post's Sita W. Dewi and Kusumasari Ayuningtyas explore how Jokowi's inner circle and political elites have helped to mold him into such a figure. This is the second of a three-page story detailing Jokowi's political journey.
Jokowi, 52, may possess the personality of an ideal leader most Indonesians long for. He is humble, low profile, close to the grass roots and, thus far, seemingly immune to graft, which has long cast a shadow over the country's political life.
He also accumulated a long list of accomplishments while serving as mayor in Surakarta (commonly known as Solo), Central Java, attesting him as a leader that can deliver.
While these characteristics have undoubtedly played a role in his career, Jokowi's venture into politics has been marked by a series of fateful twists and turns.
Jokowi's candidacy and victory in the Surakarta mayoral election in 2005 would have been unlikely without the support of the city's Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) chairman, FX Hadi 'Rudy' Rudyatmo, who was then one of the city's most popular and influential politicians.
Local politicians have said that Rudy could easily have won the election himself, regardless of his partner, given the city's vast number of diehard PDI-P supporters.
However, probably due to his Catholic background, Rudy, who chaired several youth and sports organizations in the Muslim-majority city, opted to become the candidate for deputy mayor.
'I was very comfortable with Jokowi at the time, and we preferred to have him leading the city,' Rudy said.
'I know my capacity. I merely wanted to help a mayoral candidate,' he said, adding that Jokowi was not at that time a party member.
Given Surakarta's reputation as a PDI-P stronghold, the pair easily won elections covering two terms.
A similar chance of fate led to Jokowi entering the capital in 2012 amid an ongoing battle between Jakarta's political and business titans.
In 2011, property tycoon and Public Housing Minister Djan Faridz, who was also an influential politician for the Muslim-based National Development Party (PPP) and financial backer of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's Democratic Party, had become disenchanted with his ally, then-Jakarta governor Fauzi Bowo.
The relationship between Djan and Fauzi turned sour after the Jakarta administration aimed to take over the management of the Blok A shopping center in Tanah Abang, Central Jakarta, which was operated by Djan's company.
Djan initially gathered support to challenge Fauzi in the 2012 gubernatorial election. But surveys showed that he had slim chance of winning.
He then joined forces with former vice president Jusuf Kalla to find a worthy candidate to take on Fauzi.
Kalla eventually proposed Jokowi, a man he barely knew. Kalla had been impressed by Jokowi after meeting him in Semarang, Central Java, in early 2011 at an event organized by the Indonesian Red Cross (PMI), of which Kalla is the chairman.
'I helped bring Jokowi to Jakarta,' Kalla said at a gathering at his home in South Jakarta in August.
'He had been successful in Surakarta, so I figured he deserved a chance on the national stage.'
In early 2012, Kalla requested his trusted friend and businessman, Sofjan Wanandi, to lobby PDI-P chairwoman Megawati Soekarnoputri to have her party support Jokowi for the Jakarta gubernatorial election.
'I did not know Jokowi at the time. But I visited Megawati several times to lobby for his candidacy,' Sofjan said recently.
The proposal apparently came at a tricky moment as Megawati's husband, the late Taufik Kiemas, had pledged the PDI-P ticket to incumbent Fauzi, who was endorsed by the Democratic Party.
'At first, [Megawati] said she would consider it [Jokowi's candidacy], but she did not make a final decision for a few months,' Sofyan said.
Megawati ultimately made her decision after a massive rally at the House of Representatives in March 2012 to protest Yudhoyono's plan to raise fuel prices. Megawati, whose party rejected the government's fuel plan, refused to join with the Democratic Party in supporting Fauzi.
Kalla then lobbied Great Indonesia Movement (Gerindra) Party chief patron Prabowo Subianto to join their band.
Support from Prabowo, Megawati's running mate during the 2009 presidential election, was needed to pass the candidacy threshold of 15 percent of seats in the Jakarta Legislative Council.
'It was not until Prabowo's final push that Megawati finally agreed to appoint Jokowi,' Sofjan said.
A source familiar with the matter said that Prabowo agreed to support Jokowi on condition that the deputy governor candidate should be a Chinese-Indonesian.
Prabowo, according to the source, needed to rid himself of his 'anti-Chinese' label after allegations that he masterminded the 1998 riots that left hundreds of Chinese-Indonesians dead. Prabowo refused to comment on the issue.
Kalla proposed Golkar politician Basuki 'Ahok' Tjahaja Purnama for the post, which was agreed on condition that Ahok would jump ship to Gerindra.
Jokowi initially refused to pair with Ahok, preferring film actor and director Deddy Mizwar (now West Java deputy governor) due to concerns that he would not obtain widespread support from Jakarta's Muslim community. 'But Jokowi was not in a position to choose. His fate lay with Megawati, Kalla and Prabowo,' said a PDI-P politician.
Jokowi's campaign team leader, Anggit Noegroho, confirmed Kalla's role behind Jokowi's candidacy.
'Before Bu Megawati appointed Pak Jokowi, Pak Kalla had suggested he run in the Jakarta election,' Anggit said. 'But it was Megawati as party chair who made [his candidacy] possible.'
While waiting for Jokowi's candidacy endorsement, Kalla's camp had already launched campaigns in 2011 to help increase Jokowi's popularity, including through publicizing the Surakarta-made Esemka national car.
The development of the car, which was reportedly pioneered by Jokowi's deputy, Rudy, was packaged into a PR stunt that turned into a national media fun fair.
Jokowi eventually won the Jakarta election and left his job as Surakarta mayor in October 2012, three years before the end of his second term.
His leadership and management style, the antithesis to that of most of Indonesia's leaders, has caused a sensation among national media outlets and amplified his popularity nationwide.
Jokowi's so-called blusukan, impromptu visits to meet people directly and listen to their complaints and opinions, has become his headline-making trademark.
But, as his personal popularity soars, Jokowi's honeymoon period with his allies seems to be coming to an end.
Kalla has urged him to stop the image-building stunts and embark on concrete work for Jakarta. 'The presidential election is still months away. Anything can happen. I feel that Jokowi needs to be able to show some concrete results, otherwise he will be left out,' Kalla said.
Prabowo, who has been deemed less popular than Jokowi in a number of surveys on presidential candidates conducted this year, reminded the media that he had 'made Jokowi'.
'I brought him from Surakarta to Jakarta,' Prabowo said in July when asked about Jokowi's skyrocketing popularity.
While Jokowi has always refused to comment about his possible presidential candidacy, he said he did not feel indebted to any one individual for his current success.
'I am indebted to thousands of people who made me what I am today. There should not be claims by certain individuals just because they helped me during my campaign,' Jokowi said. 'In my current situation, I will not provide any special attention or preferential treatment to any individual or group. I could be lynched for that,' he said in an interview in October.
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