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September 26, 2017

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Indonesia's Widodo clears last hurdle to presidency

JAKARTA -- With a legal challenge by his rival defeated, Indonesia's Joko Widodo has swept away the last barrier to the presidency and an ambitious reform agenda after an unlikely rise from his upbringing in a riverside slum.

Speaking to AFP as aides buzzed around him at Jakarta city hall, the governor of the teeming capital outlined goals including attracting more foreign investment to Southeast Asia's top economy, and "reviving faith" in corruption-riddled politics.

But Widodo, the country's first leader without deep roots in the era of dictator Suharto, insisted that even when he is the most powerful man in Indonesia, he will still maintain his man-of-the-people approach to governance.

"Every day I go to the ground, I go to the people ... it is very important to listen to the people," said the slightly built, softly spoken president-elect, known by his nickname Jokowi.

"The people have given us a mandate to govern," added Widodo, dressed in a traditional Indonesian "batik" patterned shirt.

Widodo's down-to-earth image and fondness for paying impromptu visits to local communities have been key to his huge popularity as Jakarta governor, a role he will give up ahead of his October inauguration.

His style, and his background as a self-made furniture exporter, is a break from the past and sets him apart from the aloof political and military elites who have traditionally dominated Indonesian politics.

From humble beginnings in a bamboo shack on the main island of Java, he rose rapidly through local politics, and was last month elected president after a battle against Prabowo Subianto, a controversial ex-general with strong links to the country's autocratic past.

Official results showed Widodo with a decisive victory but Prabowo nevertheless mounted a legal challenge.

But with the Constitutional Court deciding in favor of Widodo on Thursday, he can now focus on preparing to take over from outgoing President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

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