Commentary

Jokowi’s lesson in meet-the-people politics

Jokowi’s lesson in meet-the-people politics
Photo: Bloomberg
Published: 4:02 AM, August 7, 2013
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All politics is local. But hot-button issues differ from country to country and city to city.

In Kuala Lumpur (after a spate of shootings, many fatal), it is crime and affordable housing. In Singapore, it is affordable housing and transport. In Jakarta and Manila, it is traffic congestion and flooding.

Everywhere, though, South-east Asian leaders are fast discovering that urban voters can be a nightmare to handle: They are distrustful of authority, quick to criticise and ungrateful.

Social media adds to the complexity of managing these cities; the flow of information now hurtles out of anyone’s “control”.

Local politicians need to be humble and consultative. Sadly, there are representatives across South-east Asia who think an election victory is a licence to print money.

What they have failed to comprehend is that we now live in an era where urban voters no longer kiss the hands of their elected representatives.

Given these challenges, how do you govern these communities? Look to Indonesia.

Specifically in Jakarta — Southeast Asia’s largest conurbation — a seemingly minor market relocation has mushroomed into a critical challenge for its Governor, Mr Joko Widodo (or Jokowi).

While many are talking about his potential as a presidential candidate, the really interesting thing about him is his unexpected leadership style. In fact, it does not matter whether he stands in the coming 2014 elections because he has already shaken up the Republic’s politics, forever.

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