Who will lead Jakarta?

It remains to be seen if relocating the nation’s capital will make it easier or harder for the next Jakarta governor to lead the 495-year-old metropolis.


President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo (second right, front) pours water from Jakarta into a large urn as Jakarta Governor Anies Baswedan (right) and East Kalimantan Governor Isran Noor (second left, front) look on, during the Kendi Nusantara ceremony on March 14, 2022 at the site of the country’s new capital city, Nusantara, in Sepaku district, North Penajam Paser, East Kalimantan. (Courtesy of Presidential Secretariat Press Bureau /Muchlis Jr. )

July 5, 2022

JAKARTA – A few months from now, Anies Baswedan will no longer be the Jakarta governor, and President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo will be appointing an interim governor to lead the city for around two years until Jakartans can elect their new governor.

If all goes according to plan, by that time Jakarta, which has served as the center of the nation’s political and economic life since the colonial era, will have relinquished its status as the nation’s capital city to the new capital, Nusantara, in North Panajam Paser regency, East Kalimantan.

It remains to be seen if relocating the nation’s capital will make it easier or harder for the next Jakarta governor to lead the 495-year-old metropolis. Regardless, the city will need a visionary, can-do leader to address many of its chronic problems.

The Home Ministry has yet to announce who will serve as the acting Jakarta governor come October, but three people are reportedly being considered for the job: Heru Budi Hartono, the head of the Presidential Secretariat, Marullah Matali, the city secretary, and Juri Ardiantoro, an official at the Executive Office of the President (KSP).

Of the three, Marullah is the only active Jakarta official and the only candidate with no clear ties to the President. Heru was the North Jakarta mayor when Jokowi served as the Jakarta governor, and was later appointed as the head of the city’s finance and asset management agency by Jokowi’s successor, Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama. Meanwhile, Juri was a member of the Jokowi-Ma’ruf Amin campaign team before joining the KSP.

The Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), of which the President is a member, has endorsed Heru as Anies’ replacement.

While Heru does have relatively good credentials to lead Jakarta, as he is more of a technocrat rather than a mere political appointee of the President or the PDI-P, it is hard to ignore the politics behind his appointment. An acting governor has no power to undo their predecessors’ policies, nor are they eligible to run for the post, but they still have the bureaucratic power to sway the next gubernatorial election.

While the next Jakarta election is two years away, the PDI-P has expressed its intention to nominate Surakarta Mayor Gibran Rakabuming Raka, Jokowi’s eldest son, or Social Affairs Minister Tri Rismaharini as a gubernatorial candidate.

Gibran recently claimed that he had been encouraged by PDI-P leader Megawati Soekarnoputri and Gerindra Party leader Prabowo Subianto to run for governor, but stopped short of saying whether he planned to make a bid for Jakarta or Central Java.

It appears that President Jokowi has not only the power to decide who will replace Anies in October, but also the political capital to give his eldest son a chance to follow in his footsteps in an alleged attempt to build a political dynasty.

Gibran will certainly have to compete against other potential candidates to win the city’s top job. It could be Anies if the incumbent decides to seek reelection, or West Java Governor Ridwan Kamil, who is touted as the top candidate for the job according to a recent survey.

It’s up to us, the voters, to decide if he is really up to the job.

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