"As governor of Jakarta, he's proved his mettle in terms of one, not being corrupt (and) number two, being able to deal with the issues that matter to the people," Amarjit Singh, senior analyst at IHS, told CNBC.
Stamping out, or at least minimizing, corruption is likely the biggest issue for the election. Transparency International scores the country at 32 out of 100 on its corruption perception index, with 0 signaling highly corrupt and 100 as very clean, which gives it a ranking of 114 out of 177 countries.
Other issues include job security and wages as well as inflation and infrastructure development.
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If Jokowi's party, the opposition Eh - PDI-P or the Indonesian Democratic Party-Struggle led by former President Megawati Sukarnoputri, doesn't garner enough votes in this election, he may need to form a coalition with another party. This may cost him the ability to choose his running mate and limit his ability to push needed reforms.
However, Singh noted that Jokowi as well as the other candidates have yet to announce economic platforms.
"At this stage, everybody is running on personalities and hoping that the personality behind the party can carry the party forward," he said.
Among other popular parties, the Greater Indonesia Movement Party, or Gerindra, is led by Prabowo Subianto, a former special-forces commander, who may also throw his hat in the presidential ring.
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Another potential candidate is businessman Aburizal Bakrie from Golkar, the party of former strongman Suharto.
The Democratic Party of current President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has been falling behind in the polls. It plans to hold a convention to choose its presidential candidate. Harvard-educated former trade minister Gita Wirjawan has said he will participate in the convention.
—By CNBC.Com's Leslie Shaffer; Follow her on Twitter @LeslieShaffer1