The Indonesian president, who mingles with people and listens to Metallica, is still very popular in the last term

Jakarta, Indonesia (AFP) – Joko WidodoHis meteoric rise from the riverside slum, where he grew up, to… Presidency of Indonesia It highlighted how far the world’s third-largest democracy had strayed from a brutal authoritarian era a decade ago.

With him The second and final term is for five years Ending in October, Widodo – which some consider Asia Barack Obama – Leaves a legacy of impressive economic growth and an ambitious portfolio of infrastructure projects spearheaded by a $33 billion transition plan. The crowded Indonesian capital to the border island of Borneo.

Dismissed by rivals as a political lightweight when he first won the presidency in 2014, Widodo built a reputation as a soft-spoken reformer who promised to fight poverty and inequality by exploiting Indonesia’s abundant resources and attracting tourism to drive its economy, the largest in the country’s southeast. Asia. He served as mayor of the city of Solo, where he was born into a working-class family in illegally built shanty towns along the river, and then became governor of the capital, Jakarta, before securing his first presidential term.

It was Widodo The first Indonesian president to emerge from the political and military elite. But his critics say he has succeeded in achieving political compromises, becoming beholden to supporters of political parties and co-opting former generals who served under the late authoritarian leader Suharto. His pragmatic deals tempered opposition to his leadership, but also threatened Indonesia’s fragile democracy that had brought to power a commoner, the son of a lumber seller.

Reaching political settlements in the world’s largest archipelago nation with deep religious, ethnic and economic divisions has been a constant struggle even for previous leaders.

Widodo was widely criticized when he was appointed Prabowo Subianto – His main rival in two presidential elections – as Minister of Defense in 2019, After winning his second term.

“I realize that there are people who call me stupid, stupid, ignorant, pharaoh, and fool,” Widodo said in his State of the Nation Address last year. “What breaks my heart is that the culture of civility and noble character of this nation seems to have receded. Freedom and democracy are used to vent hatred and slander.”

Subianto, a special forces general accused of human rights atrocities under Suharto, is now the front-runner in power. February 14 elections. His running mate is Widodo’s eldest son, Gebran Rakabuming Raka, who is the mayor of Surakarta, Widodo’s hometown in Central Java province.

Widodo’s son did not meet the required age of 40 to run, but the Constitutional Court – headed by the president’s son-in-law – issued an exception in a ruling last year.

A group of critics was considering filing a complaint against Widodo, but legal experts said the chances of success were slim. He remains very popular and his allies dominate Parliament.

Widodo, also known as Jokowi, now 62, has fostered an image of the average Indonesian man who loves a lower class and down-to-earth lifestyle that has resonated with a broad base of ordinary voters.

He often mingled with working-class crowds wearing cheap sneakers and rolled up sleeves to check on their concerns. He took selfies with hordes of journalists and is one of the biggest fans of the American heavy metal band Metallica, whose concerts he watched in the Indonesian capital when he was governor of Jakarta.

Widodo has enjoyed consistently high approval ratings of more than 70% in recent months, an impressive feat in the final years of a decade-long presidency. It also makes him a strong proponent of elections and a kingmaker, despite legal restrictions on the practice. Opponents accused him of secretly using his influence to support his son and Subianto to create a new political dynasty.

He ridiculed the accusations and called on Indonesians to help future leaders push through reforms to boost economic growth.

Widodo’s main projects focused on connecting the country, which includes more than 17,000 islands, with bridges, high-speed trains, toll roads, ports and airports.

“Jokowi is not a perfect leader, but he is still the best leader we have ever seen. He made Indonesia better and was respected by world leaders, but unfortunately, he lost his political ambition to create a new country,” said Dwi Mustikareni, a Jakarta resident. The dynasty was an obstacle to him ending his rule with a smooth landing.

Aiming to generate more revenue and employment opportunities, Widodo banned the export of selected raw materials such as nickel ore and encouraged their processing domestically to obtain better prices in foreign markets.

In an attempt to attract investors and tourists and stimulate growth and employment outside busy, congested destinations like Jakarta, he launched one of the most ambitious and controversial projects of his presidency: moving the capital about 2,000 kilometers (1,240 miles) to Borneo. , a vast area of ​​lush tropical rainforest where orangutans roam.

In mid-2022, despite warnings from environmental activists of widespread deforestation and protests from indigenous communities, construction of the new capital began. It is envisioned to be a future green city twice the size of New York. A grand opening ceremony is scheduled for August 17, coinciding with Indonesia’s Independence Day, but authorities say the final stages of the city will likely not be completed until 2045.

Under Widodo, Indonesia experienced a period of remarkable growth averaging 5% annually, with the exception of 2020, when the economy contracted due to the coronavirus pandemic.

His economic roadmap is titled “Golden Indonesia 2045”. Indonesia becomes one of the world’s five largest economies With a GDP of $9 trillion, exactly a century after it gained independence from the Dutch colonialists.

Widodo said in his speech last year that this could be achieved if future leaders muster the courage to make “difficult and unpopular decisions” and win the support of various sectors. He warned that wasting the opportunity could return Indonesia to a state of instability.

The Bahasa-speaking Widodo has focused largely on local issues, and has also played a role on the world stage, often speaking through an interpreter and at times appearing uncomfortable with formality and protocol.

In 2022, he became the first Asian leader to visit Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in Kiev and then Russian leader Vladimir Putin in Moscow to help encourage the two enemies to start a dialogue.

Later that year, he hosted the G20 summit of leading rich and developing countries. In a delicate balancing act, Trump met with President Joe Biden at the White House for talks on strengthening defense cooperation after meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping in China to expand trade and investment.

In response to reporters’ questions about what he will do when he steps down, Widodo said he intends to return to his family in his hometown, where his political journey began, and play an active role in protecting the environment.

“This is the plan,” Widodo told Bloomberg TV in a recent interview. “But sometimes, plans can change.”

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Associated Press writer Jim Gomez contributed to this report.

(tags for translation) Joko Widodo

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