Joko Widodo

  • Country: Indonesia
  • Title: President
  • Education: Gadjah Mada University

On July 9, nearly 135 million Indonesians went to some 480,000 polling stations and picked a new president -- just the third to be directly elected in the country’s history. (Indonesia overthrew its longtime dictator, Suharto, in 1998, but his initial successors were chosen by the legislature.) Their choice: Joko Widodo, known universally as Jokowi. A former small-town mayor from central Java, Jokowi first burst onto the national scene when he was elected governor of Jakarta in 2012. A populist and technocrat, Jokowi is neither rich nor wellborn; he dresses simply, is a self-professed metalhead with a special fondness for Metallica, and worked in the family furniture business before entering politics. His wild popularity and rapid ascent -- from provincial unknown to the leader of the world’s third-largest democracy -- have drawn comparisons to another president who spent part of his middle-class childhood in Indonesia: Barack Obama. But high expectations can be a curse as well as a blessing, and Jokowi faces huge challenges: endemic corruption, a once-promising economy that has gone into a tailspin, and a lingering threat of Islamic extremism. In mid-September, he met with Foreign Affairs managing editor Jonathan Tepperman at his Jakarta residence for his first interview with an

This article is part of our premium archives.

To continue reading and get full access to our entire archive, you must subscribe.

Copyright © 2020 by the Council on Foreign Relations, Inc.
All rights reserved. To request permission to distribute or reprint this article, please visit