The election of Jokowi is good for the region

The election of Jokowi is good for the region
Indonesia's newly-elected President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo.

It's not very often that a national leader is identified by the people as one of their own.

So when a man like Joko Widodo, the recently elected president of Indonesia, comes along, it is nothing less than a breath of fresh air.

It's not hard to see and feel the chemistry between Joko, who likes to be called "Jokowi", and the people.

For instance, immediately after his inauguration, Joko walked onto the crowd and started talking to them. There is no pretentiousness about any of it. He is always relaxed and he's always himself. Integrity comes to mind for many people who follow this man who just a few years ago was virtually a nobody in Indonesian politics.

And whenever Joko is in public, people always want to get a glimpse of him and give him words of encouragement. This is because he is the first president who is not from the political elite that has ruled Indonesia since independence.

It didn't take long for Joko to illustrate his political courage. By reaching out to his political rival, Prabowo Subianto, during the inauguration speech and referred to him as his "good friend", Joko sought to eliminate the animosity with his key rival.

Credit should also go to Prabowo for attending the inauguration considering his initial reaction after the poll came out in favour of Jokowi. By showing up at the inauguration, Prabowo put his personal feeling aside for the sake of Indonesia.

Joko will be facing a very feisty Parliament and political allies who will be concerned with putting their people in key Cabinet posts. His refusal to swap cabinet seats in exchange for political backing has driven some parties to the opposite side. It remains to be seen how well his minority government will perform in such an arrangement.

One of Joko's first orders of business is slashing fuel subsidies - a chokehold for successive Indonesian governments - that costs up to $20 billion annually. This is money the new president would like to use on improving infrastructure, healthcare and education.

Indonesian voters know that there is no magic that can solve their problems overnight. And the fact that the transition, from Yudhoyono to this new government, is moving along without violence or resistance from various political blocs is a good sign that the country is on the road to democracy and institutional growth.

It is also a reflection of the people's attitude about what is achievable and what's not. Let's hope that the same attitude prevails when the fuel subsidies are finally slashed.

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