Joko Widodo sworn in as new Indonesian president
JAKARTA: Joko Widodo completed a journey from riverside shack to presidential palace on Monday, cheered through the streets following his inauguration by tens of thousands of ordinary Indonesians in a reminder to the opposition-controlled Parliament of the strong grass-roots support that swept him to power.
The 53-year-old must make tough decisions, and soon, to stand a chance of boosting economic growth in Indonesia, a sprawling nation of 250 million people. Supporters have already expressed concerns any reforms he tries to enact could be blocked by a hostile opposition led by the Suharto-era general he defeated in July’s election.
But those thoughts were put aside momentarily Monday when Widodo and his deputy traveled from the Parliament building to the presidential palace in an organized public party, the first in the country’s history following an inauguration. After a few kilometers (miles), he left his car and took a horse and cart, flashing victory signs and shaking countless hands.
“To the fishermen, the workers, the farmers, the merchants, the meatball soup sellers, the hawkers, the drivers, the academics, the laborers, the soldiers, the police, the entrepreneurs and the professionals, I say let us all work hard, together, shoulder to shoulder, because this is a historic moment,” Widodo said in his inauguration speech, witnessed by regional leaders and US Secretary of State John Kerry.
Widodo, better known by his nickname of Jokowi, was elected with 53 percent of the vote, with most of his support coming from poor, non-urban Indonesians attracted by his simple demeanor and record of hard work as Jakarta governor.
The son of a furniture maker, he grew up in a rented bamboo shack on the banks of the river Kalianyar in Solo, a town on Java Island.
He is the first Indonesian leader not to come from the country’s super rich, and often corrupt, political, business and military elite.
“I was moved by Jokowi’s inauguration speech this morning, it was so beautiful,” said Rukasih Wanti, standing under a blue umbrella with her two kids waiting for the president. “He deserves to get the people’s respect and a celebration the likes of which has never happened in the past.”
Police estimated that 50,000 people attended the street party, which brought traffic to a standstill. Around twice that many attended an evening concert where Widodo made a speech and cut the top of a traditional cone of rice before returning to the palace for meetings with visiting leaders.
Indonesia is the biggest economy in Southeast Asia, and about 90 percent of its people are Muslims.