Jakarta (AsiaNews) - Election for Jakarta's governor has brought new faces to the fore. Causing a major surprise, the mayor of Solo (Central Java), Joko Widodo, won the first round. Known by his nickname Jokowi, Widido, a Muslim and a member of the nationalist Indonesian Democratic Party-Struggle (PDIP), came out nine points ahead of outgoing Governor Fauzi Bowo, as well as Islamist candidates, former military and noted business people.
Widido is backed by Solo's deputy mayor, Francis Xavier Hadi Rudyatmo, a practicing Catholic, and Basuki Thahaja Orunama (aka Ahok), a Sino-Indonesian Christian member of the nationalist Golkar party, famous for winning in regional elections held in East Belitung Regency (Sumatra), an Islamist stronghold.
Over the years, Jokowi has been influenced by his relations with the two Christians. All three have gained fame for focusing on their communities' problems, especially corruption, which has dropped significantly in their respective regions.
As Solo mayor, Jokowi gave up his salary and privileges to fund anti-poverty programmes run by the city. He concentrated his efforts on improving living conditions for the weakest groups in society like factory workers, street vendors and rickshaw drivers.
His nation-wide recognition came after his deputy, Rudyatmo, led demonstrations against higher fuel prices that brought the capital to a standstill. Dubbed "disobedient", the Catholic political leader saw his popularity in Java jump with voters eventually backing the candidate he supported.
In Indonesia, the gubernatorial vote in Jakarta is second in terms of importance only to the presidential election. Anyone who leads the capital can project his status and influence across the country.
Jokowi's first-round victory is a sign that President Yudhoyono's Democratic Party (PKS), which backs Fauzi Bowo, is in trouble.
In recent months, the president's party has been weakened by a series of corruption cases involving PKS lawmakers and party officials. This has translated in a loss of support in opinion polls.
But that is not the only new factor. Islamist parties have also seen their support decline.
After dominating the capital's politics for years, they suffered their first major defeat in 2009, won by the PKS, Golkar and PDIP.
The rise of new leaders like Jokowi, Ahok and Rudyatmo is sign, experts believe, that Java voters are more influenced by the media and reporting on politicians' work than by mosques, ethnic-religious identity or powerful groups.