Man Born in Slum Becomes Indonesia's President

Joko Widodo rises to top post of world's largest Muslim-majority nation
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 20, 2014 9:32 AM CDT
Man Born in Slum Becomes Indonesia's President
Indonesia's President Joko Widodo, left, walks with predecessor Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono at the presidential palace in Jakarta, Indonesia, on Oct. 20, 2014.   (AP Photo/Adek Berry, Pool)

He grew up in a slum on the island of Java and has never been considered part of his country's political elite, but today, Joko Widodo was inaugurated as Indonesia's seventh president. The 53-year-old "commoner"—who previously plied his trade as a furniture exporter and served as governor of Jakarta, the BBC reports—was joined today by his new VP, Jusuf Kalla, in taking the reins from predecessor Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to lead the world's largest Muslim-majority nation, the New York Times reports. Joko's inaugural address built upon his previous "people-centric" statements, saying he would be pushing in his new role to help the nation's poor and transform Indonesia into a major "maritime power," given its strategic archipelago status.

Joko's humble beginnings included growing up poor as the child of a carpenter, often helping his dad gather wood they could sell, the Straits Times reports. Even today Joko and his wife dress modestly (she rarely wears branded clothing), and he's a self-confessed Metallica and Megadeth fan. There may be possible roadblocks during his tenure: Joko beat Prabowo Subianto—a son-in-law of authoritarian former president Suharto—in the July election, and now Prabowo's cronies have been threatening to stymie Joko's plans, the Times notes. But that didn't mar the celebration of thousands of people in the streets after Joko's inauguration. "We used to have our transfers of power marked by bloodshed; today we have this: a huge party," one spectator tells the BBC. Another celebrant says she's excited about Joko because he's "like her." (More Indonesia stories.)

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