Localizing the National, Nationalizing the Local: The Political Trajectory of Duterte And Widodo From Mayoralty to Presidency

Ms Lermie Shayne Garcia1

1City University of Hong Kong, , Hong Kong

This study examines the political trajectory of Rodrigo Duterte (Philippines) and Joko Widodo (Indonesia) from being mayors (local) to being presidents (national). It aims to understand the factors that brought them electoral successes in the 2016 and 2014 presidential elections, respectively. First, their local experiences in pragmatic problem solving as mayors of Davao and Surakarta/Solo and later as congressman and governor, gave people hope that what they did in their respective localities can also be replicated in other cities and at the national level. Unlike other candidates who made use of idealist platforms, their rhetoric was not based on empty promises but on actual achievements which later became their “campaign calling cards.” Because both candidates were already “tried and tested” at the local level, they enjoyed more legitimacy when they ran for national office. Second, their populist appeals (although based on quite different forms of populism) were combined with activities in which they demonstrated their connection to the people such as Widodo’s blusukan (impromptu visits) and Duterte’s night patrols. Lastly, it also explores the importance of mediatization (both mainstream and social media) and the volunteer sector (individuals and organizations) in their campaigns. These factors help explain the hopes for reform connected to these two successful presidential candidates in the context of broken promises and poor performance of their political predecessors which had led to widespread public disillusionment.


Lermie Shayne S. Garcia is a PhD student at the Department of Asian and International Studies, City University of Hong Kong.



The Asian Studies Association of Australia (ASAA) is the peak body of university experts and educators on Asia in Australia. Established in 1976, we promote and support the study of Asia in Australian universities and knowledge of Asia among the broader community. Our membership is drawn mainly from academics and students, but also includes industry and government Asia experts. We take a strong interest in promoting knowledge about Asia in schools and in contributing to state and Commonwealth government policies related to Asia. We provide informed comment on Asia to a broad public through our bulletin, Asian Currents, and specialist research articles in our journal, Asian Studies Review. Four book series published under our auspices cover Southeast Asia, South Asia, East Asia and Women in Asia.

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