JAKARTA, Indonesia – After a bruising election campaign, former businessman Joko Widodo was sworn in Monday as president of Indonesia, becoming the first man from outside the country’s political and military elite to lead the world’s 10th-largest economy.
Tens of thousands took to Jakarta’s sun-scorched streets to hail Joko, widely known as “Jokowi,” who won the closest election since the Southeast Asian nation dispensed with a military dictatorship in 1998.
In his inaugural address at parliament, with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in attendance along with the heads of government from Australia, Malaysia and Singapore, Joko, 53, called for national unity and exhorted his 250 million compatriots “to move together, to work, work and work.”
A decade ago, Joko was selling furniture in Solo, his hometown in the center of Indonesia’s most populous island, Java. But his tenures as mayor of Solo and later as governor of Jakarta, the capital region, earned him national popularity, which he rode to a 6-percentage-point win over former Gen. Prabowo Subianto in July’s presidential election.
Prabowo refused to accept the result and has threatened to use his party’s parliamentary majority to block Joko’s agenda for economic reform.
U.S. officials praised Joko’s “reform-minded” stance and said they were eager to work with him on issues such as combating terrorism and the spread of the extremist group Islamic State, whose campaign in Iraq and Syria has attracted fighters from Southeast Asia.
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