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Andy Mukherjee

Road to Indonesia’s Election Runs Through Isolated Villages

Jokowi’s lead over his rival comes largely from the success of his $5 billion village fund.

Eko Putro Sandjojo (L), Indonesia’s villages minister, with Slamet (R), headman of a Sumatra village, on March 14.

Eko Putro Sandjojo (L), Indonesia’s villages minister, with Slamet (R), headman of a Sumatra village, on March 14.

Photographer: Andy Mukherjee/Bloomberg

In a hamlet nestled deep in Sumatra’s palm country, headman Slamet — who, like many Indonesians, goes by only one name — was eagerly showing off a 267-meter stretch of concrete to the nation’s minister for villages one recent March afternoon.

If Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo can beat a path to a second term on April 17, he should give credit to the two-meter-wide road — and to the popular village-fund program that financed its construction, overseen by minister Eko Putro Sandjojo.