India should be more proactive in engaging Indonesia, which, as the largest nation in the Asean region, ought to form the core of its Look East policy, writes Pinak Ranjan Chakravarty
On October 20, Joko "Jokowi" Widodo was sworn in as Indonesia's seventh president. The presidential election on July 9 took place 16 years after Indonesia's transition to democracy following the overthrow of President Suharto's regime.Widodo came to power after having defeated his opponent, Prabowo Subianto, a former army general, former son-in-law of Suharto and the son of Sumitro Djojohadikusumo, a former minister.
Widodo had Jusuf Kalla, former vice-president of Indonesia, as his running mate in order to secure the necessary percentage of seats and votes in the legislative elections of April 2014. In the final tally, the Widodo-Kalla combination won 53.16 per cent of the votes while the Prabowo-Hatta Rajasa combination won 46.48 per cent of the votes. Choosing Kalla was crucial for the electoral triumph because Kalla is a former chairman of the Golkar party that came second in the legislative election. The tie-up with Kalla split the Golkar votes. Subianto's controversial views on Indonesian nationalism and his association with the human rights violations of the Suharto regime also helped swing votes away from the former general. Widodo also survived the legal challenge thrown by his opponent in the constitutional court that ruled against any electoral malpractice and upheld Widodo's electoral victory.
Widodo's election marks a clear break from the older leadership that has often been associated with political families and the military leadership. Jokowi, as Widodo is popularly known, is a self-made businessman and does not belong to the traditional ruling elite of Indonesia. The former furniture businessman rose from humble origins to become the governor of Jakarta. He is a new symbol for the common people in a region dominated by political dynasties. From democracies to authoritarian states, several of the region's nations are run by children of political dynasties.