Heavy metal-loving governor tipped for Indonesian presidency

Heavy metal-loving governor tipped for Indonesian presidency

JAKARTA - Wearing a black T-shirt and leather jacket, the governor of Jakarta thrusts his fist into the air among a sweat-soaked, headbanging crowd at a concert by rock band Metallica.

If being among the people is unusual for an Indonesian politician, doing so at a heavy metal gig is one of the reasons 52 year-old Joko Widodo has quickly risen to the top of opinion polls as a figure regarded as outside the establishment.

"I listen to loud metal songs, from Metallica to Led Zeppelin, to Napalm Death... because rock is my passion," the skinny governor of the Indonesian capital, popularly known as "Jokowi", told AFP ahead of the concert.

The city chief's laid-back demeanour hides a potent political force and is part of the down-to-earth charm that has captivated the nation and shaken up a political arena dominated by aloof figures from the era of dictator Suharto.

Just one year after being elected, the man who was born in a riverbank slum is favourite to become Indonesia's next president at elections in 2014, despite not having declared his candidacy.

"He is different from other powerful figures who don't care about ordinary people," 32-year old Metallica concert-goer Rizqi Widyasari told AFP, echoing the sentiments of many who are delighted to have a leader with the common touch.

But despite the euphoria, some question whether a man who has never worked in national politics is ready to take on the challenge of running a sprawling archipelago of 17,000 islands with a population of more than 240 million.

He will not be drawn on whether he will run for president, insisting that the decision is up to his party and his focus remains on sorting out traffic-clogged, flood-prone Jakarta's problems.

However pressure is mounting on Widodo, who rose to prominence during a successful stint as mayor of Solo in Central Java province and whose hands-on approach has endeared him to a nation weary of corrupt political elites.

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