Ambassador Meets Jakarta Governor Joko “Jokowi” Widodo
U.S. Ambassador Scot Marciel met with Joko Widodo, Governor of Jakarta and Indonesian President-elect, in 2013.

With The Presidency Secured, Joko “Jokowi” Widodo Must Now Address Human Rights

The recent election of Joko Widodo -called “Jokowi” by his followers – came after a hard-fought campaign that was built on the promise of improving the living situations for all Indonesians. With his confirmation now two weeks old, most feel that it is time for Widodo to mobilize the new government and begin tackling the issues that the people have trusted him to solve. He could turn in any direction and find a human rights problem to confront within Indonesia, but it would appear that the new president is still evaluating the state of his nation before making any decisions.

What This Election Means For Indonesia

This election shows the continual progress that Indonesia has made since developing into a democracy in 1998. Since Turkey, a nation that similarly recently transitioned to democracy, has begun the slow descent back into an authoritarian government, Indonesia is now the largest, predominantly Muslim nation and third largest democracy. Widodo’s election represents a new era of leadership that is free of the nepotism that has ruled Indonesian politics in the past, but whether it is a step forward or backward is up to him.

Justice For The Past

One of the biggest controversies that helped Widodo win his presidency was the fact that his opponents were believed to have taken part in several massacres and kidnappings, which were easy for Widodo to condemn. He has promised to bring criminals to justice in order to combat the lethargy in the criminal justice system.

Another necessary move that Widodo must make if he is to gain the respect of human rights organizations is to repeal all laws that are in place to restrict and discriminate against religious minorities. This has been one of the largest issues in the nation for some time, as these laws have been used to justify various crimes and harassment against individuals who are not a part of the Sunni majority. While it may be difficult to sway individuals who have enjoyed certain degrees of preferential treatment under former regimes, Widodo can be the president who reminds them of their nation’s motto: “Unity in Diversity.”

Hope For The Future

Given his humble beginnings and passion on the campaign trail, it would seem that this new president has all of the necessary ingredients to have a successful stay in office. While he can take his time to examine the needs of the country, it is better for Widodo if he makes a decisive first step in defining his presidency, rather than wait on the pleas of his constituents as his predecessors have done.

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