Indonesians give Jokowi star treatment

Indonesians give Jokowi star treatment
Indonesian Democratic Party-Struggle candidate and Jakarta governor Joko Widodo waiting to pay at the cashier for T-shirts he picked during his visit to a retail mall in Cianjur in West Java last Saturday, where salesmen and shoppers rushed to greet him and snap photos.

JAKARTA - When presidential candidate Joko Widodo visited a three-storey shopping centre in Cianjur, West Java, last Saturday afternoon, salesmen and shoppers rushed to greet him and snap photos.

At supermarket chain Ramayana, the dangdut song Jokowi, as the Jakarta governor is called, was on replay, with the lyrics: "Jokowi goes to the ground, searching for the truth. Jokowi pays attention, the people are easy..."

Bag seller Sahipah, 42, tells The Straits Times: "We see many candidates on TV, but Mr Jokowi is the only one who seems genuinely concerned about ordinary people like us."

As Indonesia's general election campaign enters its final week, no other politician is getting such rousing reactions as the lanky Mr Joko, 52, the Indonesian Democratic Party-Struggle's (PDI-P) contender for the July presidential polls.

For now, Mr Joko is reminding crowds to work hard for the April 9 general election.

Parties or coalitions first need to secure 20 per cent of seats in Parliament or 25 per cent of the vote on April 9 to field a presidential candidate. Recent opinion polls suggest this is almost certain for the party of former president Megawati Sukarnoputri, as it seeks to end a decade in opposition.

But Mr Joko's clear lead has his opponents going on the offensive. His presidential bid has caused him to neglect his promise to serve the capital, they say. Others call him a puppet who cannot act on his own.

"The people's puppet, yes," Mr Joko retorted last Saturday. "I just ignore it. I don't want to mock or vilify others."

Mr Joko had earlier told The Straits Times that leadership, to him, was first about listening to people's aspirations, and gaining their trust.

It is this homey trait that has been crucial in his rapid rise in less than a decade - from elected mayor of mid-sized Solo City, population 500,000, to governor of the capital of 10 million and now front runner to succeed outgoing President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to lead the nation of 250 million.

As senior economist Fauzi Ichsan puts it: "Jokowi represents the new generation of leaders who serve the people, rather than expecting to be served."

On a recent campaign trip to Lampung, Mr Joko flew economy class and ate at a roadside stall.

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