How will Indonesia appear post-Jokowi departure?

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The International Influence of Joko Widodo’s Presidency

Joko Widodo’s tenure as Indonesia’s President has been characterized by his global statesmanship. Traveling far from home, he has hosted summits, visited other nations, and secured economic deals. His impending departure from office brings the question of his legacy and his successor to the forefront.

Widodo’s Atypical Leadership Style

Known colloquially as Jokowi, he has been one of the world’s most favored leaders. His casual demeanor and humble upbringing have endeared him to many. Born into a riverside shack, he was once a furniture maker and has no ties to the military or any influential families. Despite this, he has fundamentally changed Indonesian politics by pairing a keen understanding of social media with a dogged pursuit of economic growth. However, concerns linger about the future of Indonesia’s economy, maintaining his policies beyond his term, and the country’s ability to navigate a divided global landscape.

Economic Development under Jokowi

Indonesia has grown rapidly under Jokowi, becoming the fifth fastest-growing of the thirty largest world economies since he assumed office in 2014. A massive infrastructure push, involving the construction of airports, ports, power plants, dams, and transportation routes, has helped in this development. His role as a popular figure has also enabled him to influence state-owned enterprises and formidable tycoons.

The Construction of Nusantara

Jokowi’s decision to establish an entirely new capital city, Nusantara, defines his strategic approach. Designed to be built in the jungles of Borneo, he considers it necessary due to the impending submersion of a quarter of Jakarta by 2050. Although the massive $34bn project is seen as unrealistic by critics, the government is adamant, planning to fund 20% of the projected costs. However, four years after its announcement, no foreign backers have agreed to finance the city.

Indonesia’s Geopolitical Positioning

Indonesia’s focus on infrastructure has moved the country closer to China. This approach has affected Indonesia’s foreign relations, especially with America, and complicates its dance on the global stage. Despite the country’s status as the world’s largest Muslim-majority nation, the economic reliance on China has led to reticence on sensitive issues such as the mistreatment of Uyghurs, a predominantly Muslim ethnic group from China.

The Challenge of Preserving Jokowi’s Legacy

Although popular and admired for his disciplined approach, Jokowi’s democratic credentials have been questioned as he neared the end of his term. His alleged attempt to establish a political dynasty and his weakening of the anti-corruption commission have raised eyebrows. The possibility of lowering the age of vice-presidential candidates could also pave the way for Jokowi’s eldest son to become a potential running mate in the upcoming presidential elections.

Final Election Approaches

Despite reservations, all candidates in the running to succeed Jokowi have committed to maintaining his policies. However, Indonesian elections focus more on personalities than policies, meaning a direct endorsement from Jokowi would be beneficial but would not automatically lead to a preservation of his legacy.


  • Correction (September 11th): The text has been updated to reflect that there are leaders in smaller countries with higher approval ratings than Jokowi, such as El Salvador’s Nayib Bukele.
  • Correction (September 21st): A previous mistake regarding the connection of data points in chart 1 has been amended.
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