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The Genius of Jokowi

At a time when even some rich democracies are electing con men as their political leaders, the success of Indonesian President Joko Widodo deserves wider acclaim and appreciation. "Jokowi" is providing a model of good governance from which the rest of the world can learn.

JAKARTA – Bad news travels. Good news doesn’t. When Afghanistan’s government collapsed recently, the whole world watched. But when Indonesia, the most populous Muslim-majority country, produces the world’s most effective democratically elected leader today – President Joko Widodo, popularly known as Jokowi – almost no one outside the archipelago knows the story.

That story is all the more remarkable because Jokowi has succeeded in one of the world’s most difficult countries to govern. Indonesia stretches 5,125 kilometers (3,185 miles) from east to west, making it wider than the continental United States, and consists of 17,508 islands. Moreover, few large countries can match its ethnic diversity. When the Indonesian economy shrank by 13.1% in 1998 as a result of the Asian financial crisis, many pundits predicted that the country would fall apart, like Yugoslavia.

Against this backdrop, Jokowi has done far more than govern competently. He has set new standards of governance that should be the envy of other large democracies.

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