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All said and done, Jokowi still Indonesia’s best bet in this week’s election

11 6 9

WHEN Joko Widodo was first a candidate for Indonesia’s presidency five years ago, one might have looked to his successful career in local government for clues as to how he would lead Southeast Asia’s biggest economy.

When he was mayor of Surakarta city and governor of Jakarta, Jokowi — as he’s known in Indonesia — took political risks to combat corruption and improve public services. Many hoped that the reformist brand of populism he pursued in these regions would be a blueprint for his presidency.

That track record turned out to be an imperfect guide to the sort of president Jokowi would be. Almost as soon as he was sworn in, Jokowi began to disappoint the reformist voters who backed him in the 2014 election. He spent little of his political capital on addressing past human rights abuses and reducing the corruption that pervades state institutions.

But he has earnt praise for getting badly-needed infrastructure projects up and running and expanding the social safety net, although his policy agenda is often criticised for reinforcing the statist, protectionist tendencies that have long held back Indonesia’s growth potential.

SEE ALSO: Jokowi bets on an infrastructure boom

It’s tempting to dismiss Jokowi as having become a creature of the system. While there’s truth in that, Jokowi remains a sort of outsider.

As he rose to national prominence after becoming governor of Jakarta in 2012, many within Indonesia’s elite resented the emergence of a politician who they saw as a provincial upstart. For his part, Jokowi has kept himself somewhat aloof from the powerbrokers he cuts deals with every day, distinguishing himself from his predecessors by being the first........

© Asian Correspondent