Former Jakarta governor Joko Widodo was sworn in as Indonesia’s seventh president, inheriting an economy growing at its slowest pace since 2009 that he has pledged to boost through reforms such as raising fuel prices.
Wearing a suit and a red tie Widodo, 53, was inaugurated at the parliament, where he faces an opposition that holds the bulk of the seats and may try to obstruct his ambitious policies for Southeast Asia’s largest economy. Widodo, known as Jokowi, drank traditional herbal medicine and ate half a banana fritter before leaving the governor’s house for the ceremony, he told reporters.
“In the name of God I swear to fulfill my duty as president of the Republic of Indonesia with the best of my ability and in the most just manner,” Jokowi said as he was sworn in. He sat next to outgoing president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and in remarks after the oath-taking referred to failed presidential candidate and opposition leader Prabowo Subianto as his partner and best friend.
Indonesia’s new leader must tackle a political elite split by a contested election outcome that overshadowed the transition from the decade-long rule of Yudhoyono, who called on everyone to support the new president. Investors are hoping Jokowi, like his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi, can take quick action, cutting red tape and subsidies that limit the government’s ability to build more infrastructure.
“Jokowi brings the country to a new stage that leaves ties to the old power structure behind,” said Achmad Sukarsono, an associate fellow at The Habibie Center in Jakarta. “He has much to prove at the top.”
The rupiah rose 0.6 percent against the U.S. dollar by 12.00 p.m. in Jakarta, according to prices from local banks, having lost most of the gains made earlier this year that came on expectations Jokowi would easily win July’s election and deploy the can-do approach he was known for as Jakarta governor at a national level. Indonesian shares gained 1.1 percent.
The inauguration was attended by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, plus regional leaders such as Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak.
“I hope this brings optimism and better Indonesia-Malaysia cooperation,” Najib told reporters after the ceremony.
Jokowi will set up a one-stop shop for investors to speed up business permits within six months, gradually cut fuel subsidies within three years, move tax collection online and prioritize maritime logistics and mass public transportation, he said in an interview with Bloomberg TV.
“Expectations were too high and should be managed,” he said in the interview last month, adding he envisioned a country with a self-reliant economy and national identity.
Jokowi, who likes to go on unscheduled walkabouts to chat with the public, will break from tradition with a series of public events after the ceremony today. He is expected to join a parade with Vice President Jusuf Kalla down Jakarta’s main thoroughfare, where marching bands, stilt walkers and traditional dancers entertained a crowd of thousands waiting for them. He will later make a speech at a central square, ahead of a celebratory concert for the fan of heavy metal bands such as Metallica and Megadeth.
“I never dreamed to be a mayor, nor a governor, much less to be a president,” Jokowi said in an interview. “But the people decided and the people chose me. So I will work my best for my people. I will work day and night.”
As governor of the capital since 2012, he removed underperforming officials, lifted tax revenue and kick started a metro project. He wasted no time after winning 53 percent of July’s vote in setting up a transition team, some of whom are expected to form his cabinet, yet he has gone back on pledges to have a team of professionals as he tries to gain support from political parties.
“Jokowi is realizing the hard way that he cannot change the transactional habits overnight,” said Sukarsono. “He must communicate with the political powers, play the political game and compromise without abandoning his political principles.”
Proposals from within his party include Puan Maharani, the daughter of Megawati Soekarnoputri, the head of his Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle or PDI-P, according to people familiar with the process who asked not to be named because the talks were private. Also in the running is Tjahjo Kumolo, secretary-general of PDI-P, and Rini Soemarno, the head of Jokowi’s transition team and another ally of Megawati, the people said.
Jokowi is expected to tap the heads of state-owned enterprises who he regards as businesspeople battling to improve the state, such as RJ Lino and Ignasius Jonan, the heads of the state port and railway companies respectively, the people said.
Jokowi will need to offer posts to opposition parties to try to break up the coalition of Prabowo, said Fauzi Ichsan, a finance adviser to his team. Jokowi said he will have up to 60 percent professionals and the rest will be politicians.
“Because of the political realities it’s that way,” Jokowi said in the interview. “It’s not possible to have all professionals.”