The impact of recognising a Palestinian state

Reuters A Palestinian girl carries cans to collect water in Khan Younis, in the southern Gaza Strip, on 22 May
Many countries say they will only recognise a Palestinian state as part of a long-term political solution

As fighting and suffering continues in Gaza, and violence grows in the West Bank, prospects of the Palestinian people gaining their own state might seem further away than ever.

The decision by several European countries to formally recognise the existence of a Palestinian state will not overcome the reality that such ambition still faces huge obstacles.

But the declarations by Ireland, Spain and Norway will put pressure on other countries in Europe – including the UK, France and Germany – to follow them in supporting Palestinian self-determination.

“This is extremely significant,” one Arab diplomat said. “It reflects European frustration with the Israeli government’s refusal to listen.

“And it puts pressure on the EU to follow suit.”

But Israeli ministers insist this will encourage Hamas and reward terrorism, further reducing the chances of a negotiated settlement.

Most countries – about 139 in all – formally recognise a Palestinian state.

On May 10, 143 out of 193 members of the United Nations’ general assembly voted in favour of a Palestinian bid for full UN membership, something that is only open to states.

Palestine currently has a kind of enhanced observer status at the UN, which gives them a seat but not a vote in the assembly.

It is also recognised by various international organisations including the Arab League and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation.

A minority of European countries already recognise a Palestinian state. They comprise Hungary, Poland, Romania, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Bulgaria which adopted the position 1988; and others including Sweden, Cyprus and Malta.

But many European nations – and the United States – say they will recognise a Palestinian state only as part of a long-term political solution to the conflict in the Middle East.

This is often referred to as the ‘two-state solution’ where both Israelis and Palestinians agree to have their own states with their own borders.

European countries and the US differ over when they should recognise a Palestinian state.

Ireland, Spain and Norway say they are doing so now to kick-start a political process. They argue there will be a sustained solution to the current crisis only if both sides can aim at some kind of political horizon.

These countries are also responding to domestic political pressures to show more support for Palestinians.

In the past, the position of many Western countries was that Palestinian statehood should be a prize for a final peace agreement.

But Lord Cameron, the UK Foreign Secretary, and some other European countries have in recent months shifted their positions, saying the recognition of Palestinian statehood could come earlier, to help drive momentum towards a political settlement.

In February, President Macron of France said: “The recognition of a Palestinian state is not a taboo for France.”

And earlier this month, France supported Palestinian membership of the UN in the general assembly vote.

The US has privately discussed this issue with European allies but is more cautious and wants a clearer sense of what the policy would mean in practice.

So the key debate behind the scenes is about when these holdout countries should recognise a Palestinian state: when formal peace talks begin between Israelis and Palestinians, when Israel and Saudi Arabia normalise diplomatic relations, when Israel fails to undertake certain actions, or when the Palestinians take certain actions.

In other words, they want recognition of the state of Palestine to be a big moment designed to achieve a diplomatic outcome.

“It is a big card that Western countries have to play,” one Western official said. “We don’t want to throw it away.”

The problem is that recognising a Palestinian state is largely a symbolic gesture if it does not also address the vital concomitant questions.

What should the borders be? Where should the capital be located? What should both sides do first to make it happen?

These are difficult questions that have not been agreed – or even answered – satisfactorily for decades.

As of today, a few more countries in Europe now believe there should be a Palestinian state.

Supporters will cheer the move, opponents will decry it.

The grim reality for Palestinians on the ground is unlikely to change.

Domestic tourism soars in China but foreigners stay away

BBC/KATHERINA TSE A popular thing to do in Wuzhen is to pose for photos dressed in traditional hanfu clothing
A popular thing to do in Wuzhen is pose for photos dressed in traditional hanfu clothing

With the Chinese economy facing massive challenges, there have been concerns over its growth potential, at least in the immediate future.

Yet a key exception is emerging in the form of domestic tourism.

Last week’s five-day public holiday to mark labour day saw 295 million trips made within China, according to figures from the Ministry of Culture and Tourism. This was 28% higher than pre-pandemic figures recorded in 2019.

The Transport Ministry’s figures are also staggering: 92 million rail trips; almost 10 million air trips and 1.25 billion highway journeys.

However, this comes as international arrivals continue to lag, with foreigners currently entering China at barely 30% of 2019 levels. Why the disparity?

The beautiful historical river town of Wuzhen, a short drive from Shanghai, is considered one of China’s top visitor sites for travellers of all types. When we arrive the little pathways and old bridges which cross narrow waterways are filled with visitors.

A popular thing to do in Wuzhen is to pose for photos dressed in traditional hanfu clothing – as if you have really been transported back hundreds of years.

Two women in their 20s, friends since high school, are visiting from Jilin Province in the north east. After arriving, they spend an hour getting their hair done in an elaborate imperial-era style – and they are full of praise for Wuzhen’s classical beauty.

We ask if, following the post-Covid opening up, many of their family and other friends have been travelling much? “Of course, after the pandemic, we’re all visiting other places.”

Nearby a local man who is selling ice-creams also says tourist numbers are “not that bad lately”.

As good as before Covid? “Almost the same,” he replies.

Shopkeeper Wang Ying, who sells traditional snacks, echoes this sentiment with a big smile on her face. “Business is going well, and it’ll only get better.”

BBC/KATHERINA TSE Wuzhen is considered one of China's top visitor sites
Wuzhen is considered one of China’s top visitor sites

All this will be seen as good news for the Chinese government. It’s been saying that a push on domestic consumption can counter the significant faltering portions of the economy.

Major players in the once-mighty property sector are struggling to stay afloat, local government debt continues to rise, and persistent youth unemployment has left highly qualified university graduates uncertain of their future.

Amid all these challenges, the Communist Party has set a target of “around 5%” GDP growth for this year. Apart from the fact that analysts have long questioned the veracity of the country’s official growth figures, economists are also asking how such a target can be reached, in any genuine sense, in 2024 without significant extra stimulus.

One lifeline could be a more buoyant travel scene which could bring broader business opportunities and greater service industry employment.

Schubert Lou, chief operating officer at travel agency, told the BBC: “We’ve seen very strong domestic travel demand with search volumes in hotels up 67% compared to last year, and flight volumes up 80%.”

Tourism industry consultant Peng Han from Travel Daily is following the investment trail to see how the business community really views the possibilities in the sector.

“With famous international hotel brands – like Intercontinental, Marriott and Hilton – you just have to look at their growth in China in 2023,” he says. “Then check the performance goals for these large hotel groups in 2024 which have also been set relatively high. This shows that they are very optimistic about the growth potential of the Chinese market.”

But, while the volume of local travellers might be up, Mr Peng does point to the problem of per capita consumption which remains persistently low.

He says general uncertainty about the Chinese economy is putting more emphasis on saving, so people are looking for good value options. They are going on holidays and paying for things but doing so much more frugally.

This is where an increase in big-spending foreigners could help. But they are simply not travelling to China in the numbers they used to.

In 2019, nearly 98 million international visitors came to the country. Last year it was only 35 million – including business trips, students and the like. Mr Lou describes the domestic versus international market as “uneven”.

For many in the tourism industry here specialising in services for foreign travellers, “uneven” would be an understatement. Three years of harsh Covid prevention measures drove down arrivals from other countries, but that alone can’t account for the current situation.

Huang Songshan, the head of the Centre for Tourism Research in the School of Business and Law at Australia’s Edith Cowan University, blames this weakness in part to “the shifting geopolitical landscape globally”.

Getty Images Chinese performer
China’s culture and heritage has traditionally been a big draw for tourists

In the peer-reviewed East Asia Forum, he pointed to a 2023 survey carried out by the Pew Research Centre, writing that, “Most individuals in Western nations hold unfavourable views towards China. The Chinese government’s tightening grip on societal regulations could potentially cause discomfort for foreign travellers in China.”

Official travel advice from some governments echo this sentiment, at times quite harshly.

Washington warns potential travellers to “reconsider travel to Mainland China due to the arbitrary enforcement of local laws, including in relation to exit bans, and the risk of wrongful detentions”.

Australia advises “a high degree of caution” warning that “Australians may be at risk of arbitrary detention or harsh enforcement of local laws, including broadly defined National Security Laws”.

The political environment has also taken a toll on flight availability and price. This is especially the case with connections to and from North America. Last month’s 332 scheduled round trips between China and the US contrasts with 1,506 in April 2019.

As a result, finding a seat on a direct flight can be extremely difficult and those that are available are very expensive.

President Xi Jinping made a speech at a dinner on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation conference in San Francisco last November addressing this point. “Today, President Biden and I reached important consensus,” he told the crowd.

“Our two countries will roll out more measures to facilitate travels and promote people-to-people exchanges, including increasing direct passenger flights, holding a high-level dialogue on tourism, and streamlining visa application procedures. We hope that our two peoples will make more visits, contacts and exchanges and write new stories of friendship in the new era.”

Washington has since increased the number of Chinese airline flights permitted to land – but only from 35 per week to 50. It is still well short of the 150 weekly trips pre-Covid.

The Biden administration is coming under pressure from unions and US airlines to not increase this any further because, they argue, Chinese airlines have an unfair advantage over them as they have state support; don’t face the same onerous Chinese regulations; and, crucially, can fly over Russian airspace, making trips shorter and cheaper.

A letter to the US government from the Chair of the House Committee on China, Mike Gallagher, and the committee’s top Democrat representative, Raja Krishnamoorthi, reads: “Should the US-China passenger carrier market expand without the US government addressing these significant issues, US aviation workers, travellers and airlines will pay a hefty price tag.”

Mr Lou says the frequency of international flight connections is definitely having an impact.

“What we are seeing right now, based on civil aviation data, is that inbound flight capacity won’t get back to even 80% of 2019 [levels] by the end of 2024.”

Then there are other potential turnoffs for those considering travelling in China, like the country’s state-of-the-art phone app payment and booking systems which work very smoothly for Chinese citizens and residents, but which can be an enormous headache if you have just arrived.

There are certain sites, transport options, and purchases which can only be accessed via Chinese electronic apps which are, at times, only available in Chinese.

Professor Chen Yong at Switzerland’s EHL Hospitality Business School is an authority on the economics of tourism in China. He thinks that hurdles relating to payment and booking apps can pose a real problem.

“Technologies such as social network websites, online maps, payment apps, among others, which foreigners have long been accustomed to using, are either unavailable or inaccessible when they travel to China,” he says.

“On the other hand, there are Chinese alternatives to these technologies that remain inaccessible to foreigners due to language barriers and differences in user habits. We need to bridge this divide because it affects the tourist industry badly.”

Back in Wuzhen, the presence of international travellers is much smaller than in years gone by, but there are still a few foreign faces in the crowd.

An Italian couple says the process of linking up to and using China’s payment apps was a challenge but that it was not insurmountable, though they add, with a laugh, that it is “much, much, much easier” if you have a Chinese friend to help you.

BBC/KATHERINA TSE Woman and child pose for selfies
Chinese officials have acknowledged that the foreign traveller numbers have been low but they are trying to turn this around

Eliseo, from California, says he has had problems making payments to small vendors who don’t accept credit cards and really no longer deal with cash. Another hurdle for him has been his bank at home which has blocked some payments, flagging them as potentially fraudulent coming from China.

Chinese officials have acknowledged that the foreign traveller numbers have been low but they are now trying to turn this around.

One way they’re attempting to attract more foreign visitors is by increasing the number of countries whose citizens don’t need a visa to enter. says this resulted in an almost immediate increase in passenger arrivals from Southeast Asia.

In 23 Chinese cities, transit passengers from more than 50 countries are also able to stay for a few days visa free if they have an onward ticket. In Shanghai, hotels above a three-star level have been told that they should prepare to deal with international credit cards and an initial batch of 50 taxis have also started accepting them.

However, Professor Chen says “it would be too optimistic to envision a long-term growth in China’s inbound tourism”.

“The key is to establish a culture that puts service providers in the shoes of foreign tourists. They should imagine themselves being a foreigner who can’t speak or read Chinese and who doesn’t have a Chinese mobile number, payments apps and so on.”

He says that the culture around this can’t be changed overnight.

Yet, in places like Wuzhen – where the local travellers have already returned – the tourism companies are hoping that incredible sites like theirs will eventually be too much for foreigners to resist as well.

UN rights chief ‘horrified’ by mass grave reports at Gaza hospitals

Reuters Palestinian civil defence workers dig mounds of earth in the grounds of Nasser hospital in Khan Younis, in the southern Gaza Strip (21 April 2024)ReutersPalestinian workers are exhuming bodies at Nasser hospital with shovels because they have no heavy machinery

The UN’s human rights chief has said he is “horrified” by the destruction of Gaza’s Nasser and al-Shifa hospitals and the reports of “mass graves” being found at the sites after Israeli raids.

Volker Türk called for independent investigations into the deaths.

Palestinian officials said they had exhumed the bodies of almost 300 people at Nasser. It is not clear how they died or when they were buried.

Israel’s military said claims that it buried bodies there were “baseless”.

But it did say that during a two-week operation at the hospital in the city of Khan Younis in February, troops “examined” bodies buried by Palestinians “in places where intelligence indicated the possible presence of hostages”.

Ten hostages who have now been released have said that they were held at Nasser hospital for long periods during their captivity.

Prior to the Israeli operation at Nasser, staff there had said they were being forced to bury bodies in the hospital’s courtyard because nearby fighting prevented access to cemeteries. There were similar reports from al-Shifa before the first Israeli raid on the hospital took place in November.

The Israeli military has said it has raided a number of hospitals in Gaza during the war because Hamas fighters have been operating inside them – a claim Hamas and medical officials have denied.

The war began when Hamas gunmen carried out an unprecedented cross-border attack on southern Israel on 7 October, killing about 1,200 people – mostly civilians – and taking 253 others back to Gaza as hostages.

More than 34,180 people – most of them children and women – have been killed in Gaza since then, the territory’s Hamas-run health ministry says.

A spokeswoman for the UN Human Rights Office said it was currently working on corroborating reports from Palestinian officials that 283 bodies had been found in Nasser hospital’s grounds, including 42 which had been identified.

“Victims had reportedly been buried deep in the ground and covered with waste,” Ravina Shamdasani told reporters in Geneva.

“Among the deceased were allegedly older people, women and wounded, while others… were found with their hands tied and stripped of their clothes.”

Mr Türk called for independent, effective and transparent investigations into the deaths, adding: “Given the prevailing climate of impunity, this should include international investigators.”

“Hospitals are entitled to very special protection under international humanitarian law. And the intentional killing of civilians, detainees, and others who are hors de combat [not participating in hostilities] is a war crime.”

On Monday, a spokesman for the Hamas-run Civil Defense force told BBC Arabic’s Gaza Today programme that it had received reports from local Palestinians that the bodies of a “large number” of people who had been killed during the war and buried in a makeshift cemetery in the hospital’s courtyard were moved to another location during the Israeli raid.

“After research and investigation, we learned that the occupation [Israeli] army had established a mass grave, pulled out the bodies that were in Nasser hospital, and buried them in this mass grave,” Mahmoud Basal said.

Gaza Today also spoke to a man who said he was searching there for the bodies of two male relatives which he alleged had been taken by Israeli troops during Israel’s recently concluded offensive in Khan Younis.

“After I had buried them in an apartment, the [Israelis] came and moved their bodies,” he said. “Every day we search for their bodies, but we fail to find them.”

Hamas has alleged that the bodies include people “executed in cold blood” by Israeli forces, without providing evidence.

Contains some violence and disturbing scenes.BBC Verify authenticates video from key moments in the story of Nasser Medical Complex in Gaza

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said in a statement on Tuesday: “The claim that the IDF buried Palestinian bodies is baseless and unfounded.”

“During the IDF’s operation in the area of Nasser Hospital, in accordance to the effort to locate hostages and missing persons, corpses buried by Palestinians in the area of Nasser hospital were examined.

“The examination was conducted in a careful manner and exclusively in places where intelligence indicated the possible presence of hostages. The examination was carried out respectfully while maintaining the dignity of the deceased. Bodies examined, which did not belong to Israeli hostages, were returned to their place.”

The IDF said that its forces had detained “about 200 terrorists who were in the hospital” during the raid, and that they found ammunition as well as unused medicines intended for Israeli hostages.

It also insisted that the raid was carried out “in a targeted manner and without harming the hospital, the patients and the medical staff”.

However, three medical staff told the BBC last month that they were humiliated, beaten, doused with cold water, and forced to kneel for hours after being detained during the raid.

Medics who remained at Nasser after the Israeli takeover said they were unable to care for patients and that 13 died because of conditions there, including a lack of water, electricity and other supplies.

Reuters Palestinian officials tape off the courtyard of al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City as workers search for human remains (8 April 2024)ReutersThe UN Human Rights Office said it had received reports that 30 bodies were buried in the courtyard of al-Shifa hospital

On 1 April, Israeli troops withdrew from al-Shifa hospital, which is in Gaza City, following what the IDF said was another “precise” operation carried out in response to intelligence that Hamas had regrouped there.

The IDF said at the time that 200 “terrorists” were killed in and around the hospital during the two-week raid. More than 500 others were detained, and weapons and intelligence were found “throughout the hospital”, it added.

After a mission gained access to the facility five days later, the World Health Organization (WHO) said al-Shifa was “now an empty shell”, with most of the buildings extensively damaged or destroyed, and the majority of equipment unusable or reduced to ashes.

It also said that “numerous shallow graves” had been dug just outside the emergency department, and the administrative and surgical buildings, and that “many dead bodies were partially buried with their limbs visible”.

The IDF also said it had avoided harm to patients at al-Shifa. But the WHO cited the acting hospital director as saying patients were held in abysmal conditions during the siege, and that at least 20 patients reportedly died due to a lack of access to care and limited movement authorised for medics.

Spokeswoman Ms Shamdasani said reports seen by the UN human rights office suggested that a total of 30 bodies were buried in the two graves and that 12 of them had been identified so far.

Gaza’s civil defence spokesman told CNN on 9 April that 381 bodies had been recovered from the vicinity of al-Shifa, but that the figure did not include people buried in the hospital’s grounds.

The UN human rights chief also deplored as “beyond warfare” a series of Israeli strikes on the southern city of Rafah in the past few days, which he said had killed mostly women and children.

The strikes included one on Saturday night, after which a premature baby was delivered from the womb of her pregnant mother, who was killed along with her husband and other daughter.

Mr Türk also again warned against a full-scale Israeli ground assault on Rafah, where 1.5 million displaced civilians are sheltering, saying it would lead to further breaches of international humanitarian law and human rights law.

Czech Republic struggles to contain surge of whooping cough

Getty Images Two women walk side by side in Prague wearing face masksGetty ImagesSome colleagues of Prague’s mayor say he should have worn a face mask in public (file photo)

Whooping cough is on the rise across Europe, and the Czech Republic is no exception. However, a week marked by confusion surrounding official guidance and a controversial public appearance by Prague’s mayor has left some wondering if anything was learned from Covid-19.

In the first week of January, say the Czech authorities, there were 28 registered cases of whooping cough.

That figure now stands at 3,084 – a number not seen since 1963.

Sufferers include the 80-year-old mayor of Prague, Bohuslav Svoboda, who is an MP as well as an eminent gynaecologist.

Coughing and spluttering his way through a parliamentary health committee meeting, a clearly irritated Dr Svoboda questioned why he had to be there in the first place.

He said he was recovering from whooping cough, but was on day six of an antibiotic course “so I’m no longer infectious… or at least that’s what they taught me at school”.

Most colleagues in the room chortled. One, however, said he could at least have worn a face mask.

For the Prague branch of the Green Party it was no laughing matter. Public health regulations dictate that those with whooping cough must stay at home until the end of their antibiotic treatment.

The party has filed criminal charges against the mayor for “spreading a contagious disease”.

As cases continued to rise, the Prague public health authority took matters into its own hands. It sent out a letter to the capital’s schools, saying in the event of a confirmed case of whooping cough in a class, any unvaccinated children must be sent home.

This was immediately shot down by the head of the national public health authority, who admonished her Prague colleagues at a press conference. Schools had no authority to send home unvaccinated children as a precaution, she said.

Instead, all cases should be judged individually, based on how long the infected child had spent in the classroom, and so on.

Epidemiologists, including one who led the government’s measures against Covid, shook their heads in disbelief. Recently amended health ministry guidelines called for exactly the approach recommended by the Prague authority, they said.

But the confusion over the official guidance obscured a curious conundrum; what unvaccinated children?

Vaccination for whooping cough, known in Czech as “black cough”, is mandatory in the country.

It is meant to be administered, alongside inoculation for diphtheria, tetanus, polio and others, from the very first weeks of life.

Yet according to official figures, immunisation for whooping cough is estimated at 97% of the infant population, suggesting there are thousands of unvaccinated babies in the Czech Republic.

Health Minister Vlastimil Válek told Czech Television the current rise in cases is down to a combination of two things: a resurgence in respiratory diseases as society abandons strict Covid measures; and incomplete immunisation in children.

The whooping cough vaccine is applied in five stages, the first three in the first 12 months of life. Almost all children receive these initial doses.

However, only 90% end up receiving the final two, administered around the ages of six and ten.

This, said Mr Válek, would explain why the greatest rise is among Czech teenagers.

Parents have been urged to check their children’s vaccination history. Adults are encouraged to go for booster shots.

In years gone by, dozens if not hundreds of babies and young children died in what was then Czechoslovakia from whooping cough each year, until the introduction of mandatory vaccination in 1958.

Experts say the modern population is still well protected by mass, state-administered compulsory vaccination.

The resurgence in cases, however, still carries dangers.

Those infected teenagers may suffer nothing more serious than a persistent cough. But they can still pass on what can be a fatal disease to their younger siblings – whose immunity is still forming – or indeed their grandparents, whose immunity may have faded.

West Africa’s Michelin-starred cuisine wows London

Ayo Adeyemi (L) and Aji Akokomi (R) from Akoko
Image caption,Ayo Adeyemi (L) and Aji Akokomi (R) opened Akoko in 2020

Tender, buttery, spicy cow tongue is one of the dishes delighting diners at a high-end West African restaurant in central London.

The thinly sliced meat is seasoned with suya, a traditional Hausa spice, grilled over firewood and served with a creamy bone marrow emulsion on a ceramic plate inspired by Nigeria’s late renowned potter Ladi Kwali.

It is the signature dish of the newly minted Michelin-starred restaurant Akoko.

A Michelin star is awarded to restaurants around the world “offering outstanding cooking” – and Akoko is one of the three with a West African heritage head chef to receive the highly sought after and prestigious honour in the last year alone.

“This is just the icing on the cake,” Akoko’s executive chef Ayo Adeyemi told the BBC.

Around the corner from Akoko in London’s Fitzrovia neighbourhood another West African chef is also basking in pride.

Adejoké Bakare
Image caption,Adejoké Bakare made gastronomic history when her Chishuru restaurant was awarded a Michelin star earlier this month

Adejoké Bakare is a self-taught chef from Nigeria whose Chishuru restaurant also received a Michelin star at a ceremony in Manchester earlier this month.

She made gastronomic history, becoming the first black female in the UK to win a star and just the second in the world.

“People can connect to that fact that we are sharing our heritage and people can see themselves on the table,” she told the BBC about her accolade.

Ms Bakare hopes this recognition means Michelin will “start looking at the continent”.

The award, widely considered the barometer of gastronomic success, has been criticised for being overwhelmingly skewed towards restaurants with white male chefs and for lacking inclusion when it comes to African cuisine.

“We are only looking for the restaurants proposing the best food regardless of category,” the UK Michelin chief inspector, whose identity is a closely guarded secret, told the BBC.

“Our restaurant selections reflect the culinary diversity and evolution of the food scene,” the inspector added.

“Chishuru and Akoko are therefore an illustration of the growing diversity of London’s fine dining scene.”

Akoko Ayamse dish
Image caption,One of Ayo Adeyemi’s creations – scallops served with ayamase stew and plantain chips

It is evident that jollof rice, egusi soup (made from melon seeds) and moi moi (puréed black-eyed peas) – among other traditional West African food present on Akoko’s and Chishuru’s menus – have now captured Michelin’s palate and attention.

This is not only limited to UK restaurants.

Parisian restaurant MoSuke, opened by celebrity chef Mory Sacko, was awarded a Michelin star within months of its opening in 2020 – the inspectors in France praising the successful fusion of his Malian and Senegalese roots with a Japanese twist.

It was the first Gallic nod to a restaurant with a mainly West African menu.

Last year, comments by British actor Will Poulter went viral with his criticism of the Michelin system and how food of African origin tended to be underrepresented at the fine-dining level

The 31-year-old had just starred in the second series of the acclaimed US TV drama The Bear – about a chaotic sandwich shop in Chicago run by an award-winning chef.

“There’s a massive oversight of food of African origin and black chefs in general,” he said.

Georgiana Viou

Maki Manoukian

I have heard several people say that African cuisines don’t have a place on gastronomic tables”Beninois chef Georgiana Viou

Things seem to be turning around, though it is a slow process, says Georgiana Viou, a chef from Benin based in France.

“I have heard several people say that African cuisines don’t have a place on gastronomic tables,” the 46-year-old told the BBC.

But Rouge, the restaurant where she is head chef in Nîmes, southern France, received a Michelin star last year.

It has a Mediterranean menu with a Beninois influence – introduced through “dja”, a traditional tomato sauce offered to all diners at the beginning of their meals.

This is Ms Viou’s way to “change mentalities” about food from Africa.

But seeing Akoko and Chishuru “serving 100% West African” food receive a Michelin star “sends out a strong signal”, she says.

“I have a secret dream of opening a restaurant with even more West African and Beninois cuisine.”

According to Mr Adeyemi, whose parents hail from Nigeria, where he spent time as a child, this growing interest in West African food stems from the region’s growing global cultural domination – think Afrobeats.

“This interest translates to food. What is one way of experiencing someone’s culture [other] than through food?” the 34-year-old asks.

He takes diners at Akoko on a culinary expedition through Ghana, Nigeria, Senegal and The Gambia.

“We tell a journey and a story with the food. But it is not just the food itself,” the chef says.

Akoko chef Ayo Adeyemi preparing a dish
Image caption,Akoko’s menu is influenced by dishes cooked by Ayo Adeyemi’s mother

This is a nod to Akoko’s founder Aji Akokomi. The 46-year-old Nigerian, who came to the UK in his twenties, has overseen the feeling of West Africa in the restaurant’s design – every detail meant to mirror the cuisine.

An imposing two-toned black and brown Ghanaian drum greets people as they are ushered to their tables.

There is a large floral centrepiece of dried palm leaves and African flowers, with the restaurant’s rustic clay walls evoking the atmosphere of an African village.

For Mr Akokomi, this is all meant to conjure the feeling of “ajosepo”, which means community in Nigeria’s Yoruba language – highlighting all that “Africa can offer”.

Both Mr Akokomi and Mr Adeyemi set out to create a menu with their mothers and aunties in mind.

For Mr Adeyemi, every spice, ingredient and dish is an ode to his mother who he said was his “first inspiration”.

He defines West African food through these three classic flavours: smoke, heat and savoury umami.

Many African restaurants in London have thrived outside the fine dining space like Chuku’s, Beyoncé’s favourite in north London, or Enish – the largest Nigerian franchise restaurant in the world with branches in the UK and Dubai.

But those behind Akoko wanted to push the boundaries of what African cuisine could achieve – opening it up to a new diners, while staying true to its roots.

“We take inspiration from authentic dishes and flavours and present it in a unique way,” Mr Adeyemi says. “Our food is approachable to a Western palate and recognisable to an African palate.”

Curtis Mccalla, the Jamaican sous chef at Akoko, welcomes the inclusion of African cuisine by Michelin.

“It is about time,” he says – momentarily stopping chopping fish as the kitchen behind bustles ahead of the lunchtime sittings.

The Akoko team works like a well-oiled machine as the clock runs down to noon, when smooth African jazz fills the restaurant preparing for their first guests of the day.

With the firewood burning, the Nigerian Guinness chilled by the in-house sommelier, the chefs in their whites gather in the stainless-steel kitchen for a brief team meeting. Afterwards they all clap, the door is opened and feasting begins.

Setelah dilantik, Prabowo prioritaskan program Susu dan Makan Gratis

Setelah dilantik, Prabowo prioritaskan program Susu dan Makan Gratis
Calon Presiden RI Prabowo Subianto (tengah) berbincang dengan pengurus Majelis Taklim Al-Habsyi Kwitang Jakarta Habib Ali bin Abdurrahman Al-Habsyi (kiri) usai berziarah ke makam Habib Ali Kwitang di Masjid Al Riyadh, Kwitang, Jakarta Pusat, Jumat (16/2/2024). Prabowo Subianto berziarah ke makam Habib Ali Kwitang sekaligus untuk bersilaturahim dengan Pengurus Majelis Taklim Al-Habsyi Kwitang. ANTARA FOTO/Galih Pradipta/tom.

Kami akan mulai membicarakan tentang skema dan sistematika bagaimana menjalankan program, ….

Jakarta (ANTARA) – Sekretaris Jenderal Partai Gerindra Ahmad Muzani mengatakan pasangan Prabowo-Gibran akan memprioritaskan program Makan Siang dan Susu Gratis setelah dilantik menjadi presiden dan wakil presiden.

“Pak Prabowo harapannya akan lebih cepat lebih baik karena rakyat juga mengharapkan program Makan Siang dan Susu Gratis bisa direalisasikan secepatnya,” kata Muzani saat ditemui di kawasan Kwitang, Jakarta Pusat, Jumat.

Menurut Muzani, Prabowo-Gibran fokus pada program Makan Siang dan Susu Gratis untuk masyarakat, terkhusus anak-anak dan ibu hamil, demi memperbaiki kualitas sumber daya manusia (SDM) sejak dini.

Tidak hanya itu, program perbaikan gizi ini juga untuk mengantisipasi naiknya angka tengkes atau stunting pada bayi.

Muzani yakin Prabowo-Gibran akan membahas program ini dengan para menteri terkait guna merancang teknis penyelenggaraan program tersebut.

“Kami akan mulai membicarakan tentang skema dan sistematika bagaimana menjalankan program, apa yang menjadi prioritas, dan apa yang menjadi awalan-awalan dari program Pak Prabowo,” kata dia.

Perolehan sementara berdasarkan website KPU pada hari Jumat pukul 15.58 WIB, pasangan Prabowo-Gibran telah mengantongi suara sebesar 57 persen.

Di posisi kedua ada pasangan Anies Baswedan-Muhaimin Iskandar dengan perolehan suara sebesar 24,98 persen, kemudian posisi terakhir pasangan Ganjar Pranowo-Mahfud Md. sebanyak 18.02 persen.

Pemilu 2024 meliputi Pemilu Presiden dan Wakil Presiden RI, Pemilu Anggota DPR RI, Pemilu Anggota DPD RI, pemilu anggota DPRD provinsi, dan pemilu anggota DPRD kabupaten/kota dengan daftar pemilih tetap (DPT) tingkat nasional sebanyak 204.807.222 pemilih.

Peserta pemilu anggota legislatif (pileg) sebanyak 18 partai politik nasional, yakni (sesuai dengan nomor urut) Partai Kebangkitan Bangsa (PKB), Partai Gerindra, PDI Perjuangan, Partai Golkar, Partai NasDem, Partai Buruh, dan Partai Gelora Indonesia.

Berikutnya Partai Keadilan Sejahtera (PKS), Partai Kebangkitan Nusantara (PKN), Partai Hanura, Partai Garuda, Partai Amanat Nasional (PAN), Partai Bulan Bintang (PBB), Partai Demokrat, Partai Solidaritas Indonesia (PSI), Partai Perindo, Partai Persatuan Pembangunan (PPP), dan Partai Ummat.

Selain itu, pileg juga diikuti enam partai politik lokal, yakni Partai Nanggroe Aceh, Partai Generasi Atjeh Beusaboh Tha’at dan Taqwa, Partai Darul Aceh, Partai Aceh, Partai Adil Sejahtera Aceh, dan Partai Soliditas Independen Rakyat Aceh.

Pada waktu yang sama, Rabu (14 Februari 2024), diselenggarakan pula Pemilu Presiden dan Wakil Presiden (Pilpres) 2024 yang diikuti pasangan Anies Baswedan-Muhaimin Iskandar nomor urut 1, Prabowo Subianto-Gibran Rakabuming Raka nomor urut 2, dan Ganjar Pranowo-Mahfud Md. nomor urut 3.

Seturut Peraturan KPU Nomor 3 Tahun 2022, rekapitulasi suara nasional Pemilu 2024 dijadwalkan mulai 15 Februari hingga 20 Maret 2024.

FKUB Malut imbau masyarakat tetap jaga kamtibmas hingga Pemilu tuntas

FKUB Malut imbau masyarakat tetap jaga kamtibmas hingga Pemilu tuntas
Ketua FKUB Maluku Utara Dr Adnan Mahmud. ANTARA/Abdul Fatah

masyarakat harus bersabar untuk menunggu hasil KPU yang akan diumumkan setelah dilakukan perhitungan dari TPS hingga dilakukan tahapan pleno.

Ternate (ANTARA) – Forum Kerukunan Umat Bersama Provinsi Maluku Utara mengajak seluruh masyarakat untuk tetap menjaga situasi Keamanan dan Ketertiban Masyarakat (Kamtibmas) hingga seluruh tahapan Pemilihan Umum 2024 tuntas.

“Kami imbau kepada masyarakat jangan mudah terpancing dengan berita hoax tentang hasil perhitungan yang menyebar di media sosial,” ucap Ketua FKUB Maluku Utara, Dr Adnan Mahmud di Ternate, Sabtu.

Selain itu masyarakat juga diimbau tidak mudah percaya dengan berita hoax yang menyebar di media sosial tentang hasil perhitungan surat suara. Karena hasil bisa diketahui setelah adanya hasil pleno.

Adnan menambahkan, masyarakat harus bersabar untuk menunggu hasil KPU yang akan diumumkan setelah dilakukan perhitungan dari TPS hingga dilakukan tahapan pleno.

“Mari sama-sama kita menjaga kamtibmas di lingkungan kita masing-masing. Jangan mudah percaya dengan isu-isu yang tidak benar yang bisa mengganggu persaudaraan yang telah dibangun di Maluku Utara,” katanya.

Adnan mengapresiasi kinerja Polda Maluku Utara dan Korem 152/Babullah Ternate yang masih bekerja melakukan pengamanan mulai dari tahap kampanye hingga tahapan saat ini.

“Kami mengapresiasi kepada aparat keamanan, khususnya TNI-Polri yang melakukan pengamanan sampai saat ini masih berjalan kondusif. Upaya yang maksimal, bisa menjaga amanah yang diberikan negara bisa dijalankan dengan baik,” katanya.

Sementara itu, Kapolda Malut, Irjen Pol Midi Siswoko dihubungi terpisah mengatakan pelaksanaan pemungutan suara hingga proses penghitungan suara dilakukan di tingkat Tempat Pemungutan Suara (TPS) yang tersebar di 10 kabupaten/kota relatif berjalan aman.

“Memang, sesuai laporan, pencoblosan ada protes karena surat suara yang kurang di TPS dan berbagai persoalan lainnya, tetapi persoalan itu bisa diatasi di lapangan,” kata Kapolda Malut.

Menurut Kapolda pencoblosan pada Rabu (14/2) lalu secara umum, pelaksanaan pemilu yang berlangsung aman, meskipun ada protes dan persoalan yang ditemukan di sejumlah wilayah pada saat pelaksanaan pemungutan suara, tetapi bisa teratasi.

Dia menyebut, beberapa Kabupaten di wilayah Maluku Utara termasuk di Halmahera Selatan, Halmahera Timur dan Halmahera Utara serta beberapa wilayah lain dan kalaupun yang fatal tidak ada karena semuanya bisa diatasi, bahkan personel harus menghadapi aksi protes masyarakat yang ingin menyalurkan hak suara menggunakan Kartu Tanda Penduduk (KTP).

Javier Milei: Argentines wait for ‘crazy’ president’s shock therapy to work

Presidential candidate Javier Milei lifts a chainsaw during a rally on 25 September 2023 in San Martin, Buenos Aires, Argentina
Image caption,Javier Milei wielded a chainsaw at one of his campaign rallies to symbolise his plans to slash public spending

There is one thing that unites those who love and loathe Argentina’s new president – they both describe him as “crazy”.

“Most people call him that. I think it’s good,” says 21-year-old Axel Uhrig of Javier Milei, who won the presidential election with 56% of the vote in November.

Axel is part of Pibes Libertarios (libertarian lads) – a self-described “militant” group whose battleground is social media.

They stick posters around Buenos Aires at night with QR codes linking to videos in support of President Milei’s policies.

The new president is trying to get a package of reforms approved to shrink the state, but is struggling to get it through Congress, where he does not have a majority.

Mr Milei may have won the election, but the Pibes Libertarios still feel they are fighting a battle for his sweeping reforms to privatise companies and cut regulations to be made into law.

Members of the Pibes Libertarios group hold a Gadsden flag, a libertarian symbol that shows a snake and reads "Don't tread on me"
Image caption,The Pibes Libertarios support the president’s radical reforms and libertarian ideology

After a series of Argentine governments introduced widespread nationalisation, welfare benefits, subsidised prices, and powerful labour laws and unions, Axel feels Mr Milei gave those on the right an “identity” – a libertarian identity.

He is keen to stress this is different from “liberals” in the West who are “progressive” and instead captures those who support “freedom from the state”.

Axel is glad that the president was “crazy enough” to defy the status quo with a different approach to the economy.

He adds he “saw no future in this place” before Mr Milei was elected and says his two best friends left Argentina seeking a better life in the US and Spain – a trend that is widely commented on here.

Shock measures

Mr Milei’s radically different approach to the economy is why a lot of people voted for him in a country where for many steep inflation feels like the norm.

President Milei blames the country’s skyrocketing inflation on years of high government spending, high debt, and money-printing to service it.

He argues “shock” measures are needed to tackle it.

A saleswoman gives change to a customer at a greengrocer's shop in Buenos Aires
Image caption,The government argues inflation will get worse before it gets better

He has already slashed the value of the currency, public spending and subsidies for transport, fuel and energy.

These measures have in turn driven up prices.

New figures published this week showed annual inflation in Argentina had hit more than 250%, making it the highest rate in the world.

The monthly figure jumped to 25.5% in December after he came to power, though has since fallen to 20.6%.

Mr Milei told the television station La Nación + the figure was “horrifying” but “you have to look at where we were.”

Short-term pain, long-term gain?

Many Argentines relish what they perceive as his honesty, saying they are willing to put up with more pain if it improves the economy in the long term.

Adriana Ignaszewski, 33, runs a discount grocery store in the poorer suburb of El Jagüel.

She says in the past “no-one gave us an answer” to inflation, but “today we have someone who tells it how it is.”

Adriana Ignaszewski at her grocery store
Image caption,Adriana Ignaszewski is updating prices in her grocery store every day

Argentines will wait as long as they need to, she adds.

“If it is the last thing we have to go through, let’s go through it.”

Adriana likes the president’s focus on getting inflation down to help with the cost of living, instead of support from the government, because price rises affect her business and customers every day.

But down the road her sister Silvia, 40, has relied on state support and fears she cannot afford to wait.

She lives with their mother and three of her five children in a house comprised of a few small rooms where “the refrigerator is literally empty”.

Silvia sews crates of hair accessories to sell at a market and says her sales have dropped by more than 50%.

“People can’t buy food, fewer will be able to buy a hair accessory,” she says.

Silvia shows some of the hair products she sews
Image caption,Silvia says sales of the hair accessories she sews have dropped because of rising prices

She stresses that fruit and meat are luxuries and says she cannot even afford to buy basic items like milk, rice or bread. She believes the current price spikes Mr Milei’s plans have caused will lead to people going without anything.

“The policies they are carrying out will kill the people, the workers,” she says.

“He’s crazy.”

Even some of those struggling, though, agree with Mr Milei’s recent argument to the World Economic Forum in Davos that “the state is not the solution, the state is the problem itself.”

They don’t want support from the government, they think it is the cause of people’s woes.

Cristina, a pensioner who sells old clothes for extra money at the barter market with Silvia, says she cannot afford her rent and living costs on her pension and blames former governments for making people accustomed to receive state support.

“They got used to the benefits. Many prefer to steal or be at home and collect benefits without working. The government cannot be there for everything.”

Lorena Giorgio, chief economist at the economic analysis centre, Equilibria, says Mr Milei has done good work in explaining to people why changes are needed.

Lorena Giorgio
Image caption,Economist Lorena Giorgio thinks many Argentines are waiting to see if things improve

But, Ms Giorgio adds, “The problem is that Milei told them that the political sector and the richest were the ones who were going to pay.

“This is not happening.”

She predicts people may be willing to wait while things get tougher for six or seven months.

But she argues that if inflation remains high, and salaries and pensions do not keep up, there could be “social problems” by Christmas.

In the past, economic crises here have led to riots, protests and even the toppling of presidents.

Riot police guard the Argentine congress during protests in Buenos Aires
Image caption,Riot police guard the Argentine Congress during protests in Buenos Aires in January

With people like Silvia, the woman selling hair accessories, wondering how long they can wait, I asked Mr Milei’s spokesman, Manuel Adorni, when people would be able to judge whether the president’s measures were working.

He would not commit to a timeframe but said that in a “short period” the government would begin to “show results in this fight against inflation”.

Argentina for many years “swept the garbage under the carpet,” he added, “and we have decided to remove the garbage and always tell the truth.”

President Milei’s popularity in part stems from the intense anger, especially from the young, about the country’s economic crisis, and what they perceive as his honesty about that.

He has hinged his reputation on curing that by cutting the state, though he is already blaming opposition politicians – whom he calls la casta, the caste – for not letting him cut as much as he wants to.

A man checks prices at a supermarket in Buenos Aires
Image caption,Prices in Argentina rose by more than 200% last year

His public support is likely to be defined by how quickly he can show results, when state support is being reduced and some already feel at their limit.

At a supermarket where the price of meat has gone up 30% in two months, a woman, Anabela Acuña, break down in tears when asked how life is for her right now.

“It’s very, very difficult. I have three jobs and I can’t make ends meet,” she says.

“Many people are on the street. That breaks my heart.

“All very crazy, very crazy.”

Ukraine fights on in ruined Avdiivka despite severe weapons shortage

Meanwhile, Russia has continued attacks on Ukrainian cities. After months of heavy fighting, Russian forces appear close to surrounding the ruins of Avdiivka, where frostbite is taking its toll on Ukrainian troops.

The man’s fist looked unrecognisable. Like a split and bruised peach.

“Or like a rock,” said the Ukrainian army surgeon, tapping the frozen fingers.

It was the second case of frostbite he’d treated that morning, standing beside a makeshift operating table, hidden inside an anonymous-looking cottage near the besieged ruins of the Ukrainian front-line town of Avdiivka.

“He’ll probably lose both hands,” said the surgeon with a frown.

Injured Ukrainian soldier Vadym

It’s very hard out there – we do not have enough of the weapons we needVadym
Injured Ukrainian soldier

As Russia’s invasion edges towards the end of its second year, the mood among Ukraine’s defenders is darkening, as exhaustion, frustration at a shortage of weapons, and the knowledge that there will be no quick military victory, all take their toll.

“My best friend was killed this morning,” a bearded soldier shouted, along with a hail of swear words and a blast of cold air, as he barged through the back door into the 47th Brigade’s well-hidden field hospital.

Moments later, two more wounded men were helped in through another entrance. Vadym, 48, had been hit by shrapnel in his upper arm that morning as his unit was storming a Russian position in Avdiivka.

“It’s very hard out there,” he said, as the surgeon, a senior lieutenant named Vitalii, came over to look at the wound and two army medics cut away Vadym’s filthy uniform.

“We do not have enough of the weapons we need.”

ISW map of Avdiivka

“It’s difficult. The enemy has a lot of everything, of every type of equipment, while we have almost nothing,” said the other wounded man, 24-year-old Andrii, before wincing in pain. A Russian artillery shell had hit his trench overnight and a piece of shrapnel had sliced through his ankle.

The surgeon, Vitalii, worked at a children’s hospital before the war. He spoke wearily of his experience amputating limbs last year during Ukraine’s failed counter-offensive across Russian minefields, and of the shrapnel wounds that were now filling his days and nights.

Andrii receiving treatment
Image caption,Andrii receives treatment for a shrapnel wound to his ankle

“I urge the West to be more decisive in assisting Ukraine, because (if they don’t) sooner or later their soldiers will (also) have to fight against this evil that has invaded our country,” he said.

Further north, two huge Ukrainian tanks roared along a mud-and-snow-smeared country road, then swung away through another heavily destroyed village and on towards the nearest Russian lines, perhaps 2km away.

After many months of fighting, the Kremlin’s forces appear close to surrounding the ruins of Avdiivka, with some Ukrainian soldiers privately admitting the town, scene of some of the heaviest fighting of the war so far, could fall at any moment.

“We’re upset,” said a Ukrainian officer, Oleksii, from Ukraine’s 110th Mechanised Brigade, standing beside a huge mobile artillery piece as the sound of Russian guns boomed in the distance.

Oleksii with his Czech-supplied mobile artillery piece
Image caption,Oleksii says he can no longer support Ukrainian infantry because of a lack of shells

The Czech-supplied artillery can hold and fire up to 36 shells at one time, and last year it was routinely shooting 80 shells a day at Russian positions around Avdiivka. But not today.

“Currently we have two shells, but we have no (explosive) charges for them… so we can’t fire them. As of now, we have run out of shells,” said Oleksii. He suggested that the shortages were widespread and having a dramatic impact on the fighting in Avdiivka.

“We feel a very strong responsibility for our guys fighting right now in the town, armed only with assault rifles.” He compared the situation to early in 2022, when ammunition was also in short supply and he’d been wounded.

“I’m worried that there will now be the same large number of casualties that I saw in hospital then,” said Oleksii.

Back in the field hospital, the two wounded men were now bandaged. The older man, Vadym, stood up, as if to leave, and argued that he was fit enough to return to his comrades in the trenches, but the doctor insisted he needed to wait at least a week.

Ukrainian army surgeon, Vitalii, in a field hospital near Avdiivka

The surgeon, Vitalii, scoffed at the idea that some Ukrainian soldiers might be deliberately getting frostbite wounds in order to avoid the hellish conditions on the front lines.

“That’s absurd. You’d have to be a complete idiot. We don’t have deserters like that, and I’ve never encountered a situation like that. On the contrary, our fighters are determined to stand firm,” he said.

“But the conditions are extreme, and they have to sit in trenches without a stove in -15 or -20C, because any heat will be visible (to Russians) through thermal imaging devices.”

Joko Widodo: From promising democrat to Indonesia’s kingmaker

Indonesian President Joko Widodo waves to the crowd while on his journey to Presidential Palace by carriage during the ceremonial parade on 20 October 2014 in Jakarta, Indonesia.
Image caption,Mr Widodo’s approval ratings remain high even as Indonesia’s democracy index has fallen

Many had said it was Joko Widodo’s “man of the people” image that helped score his first presidential victory in July 2014.

The former furniture salesman was Indonesia’s first leader from outside the political and military elite. His decisive win was propelled by people’s frustrations with corruption and nepotism in the country’s young democracy, which is also the world’s third largest.

When he was first became president, Time magazine hailed him as “the new face of Indonesian democracy”.

He’s now 62 and his decade in power has seen Indonesia’s GDP grow by a cumulative 43%, with the country also seeing a boost in infrastructure.

And even as he is about to step down at the end of his second and final term he remains hugely popular, enjoying consistently high approval ratings of more than 70% – turning from a once fresh-faced figure to a powerful kingmaker.

But the enviable legacy he is leaving behind has been somewhat marred by a perceived attempt to build a political dynasty through his eldest son.

Rise to power

Mr Widodo – known as Jokowi – was born in 1961 in the city of Solo to a family of wood sellers, who lived in a riverside shack until they were evicted by the local government.

He first entered politics with the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) in 2005 when he was elected mayor of Solo, a city in central Java.

In 2012, he was elected the governor of Indonesia’s capital Jakarta with a resounding victory. He grew in popularity as a grassroots leader who was able to empathise with the poor.

Barely two years later, Mr Widodo was elected president. He made anti-corruption the mantra in his campaign and championed meritocracy.

Indonesia’s reformer president turns pragmatist

In a country marred by dynastic politics and corruption, many Indonesians saw him as a revolutionary.

“In 2014, there was a slogan, ‘Jokowi is one of us’. He was not a typical Indonesian politician,” said political analyst Firman Noor from Indonesia’s National Research and Innovation Agency.

“Everybody had high hopes for a better democracy.”

Mr Widodo’s administration had a somewhat shaky start, rushing into some policies only to backtrack on them later.

Over the years, he built a strong track record on economic growth and infrastructure development. His infrastructure push produced 16 new airports, 18 new ports, 36 dams and more than 2,000km (1,240 miles) of toll roads. Indonesia is expected to overtake Russia and the UK to become the world’s sixth largest economy by 2027, according to IMF forecasts.

Mr Widodo is credited with achieving all this while remaining close to the ground. One of his political trademarks, known in Indonesian as “blusukan”, involved impromptu visits to connect with the people and listen to their needs and grievances.

A controversial decision

But this one-of-us image lost some of its sheen.

Mr Widodo revived the death penalty for drug traffickers shortly after entering office. Fourteen people were executed within six months of his election amid international outcry.

For his re-election bid in 2019, Mr Widodo again raised eyebrows by picking Islamic cleric Ma’ruf Amin as his running mate.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo gives money and food packages to poor people during Eid al Fitr celebration in Surakarta,
Image caption,Mr Widodo’s political career was built on his “man of the people” image

His second stint in office saw him appointing controversial ex-general Prabowo Subianto as defence minister. Mr Prabowo, who was Mr Widodo’s bitter opponent in the past two elections, has faced allegations of human rights abuses. Rights groups said the appointment marked a “dark day” for the country.

Mr Prabowo is now the frontrunner for Wednesday’s elections. His running mate is none other than Mr Widodo’s eldest son, Gibran Rakabuming Raka.

Mr Widodo has not openly endorsed any candidate, but has appeared at Mr Prabowo’s campaign events. Analysts said this has widened tensions between Mr Widodo and his own party. The PDI-P’s candidate Ganjar Pranowo was previously seen as Mr Widodo’s shoo-in successor.

More recently, critics have accused Mr Widodo of bending rules to build his political dynasty – an irony for someone who once declared that “becoming a president does not mean channelling power to my children”.

The constitutional court, where Mr Widodo’s brother-in-law serves as chief justice, controversially cleared the way for 36-year-old Mr Gibran to run for vice-president – Indonesian law had initially required presidential and vice-presidential candidates to be at least 40.

Critics believe Mr Gibran, if elected, would simply serve as a proxy for his father.

A campaign poster of presidential candidate and Indonesia's Defence Minister Prabowo Subianto and vice presidential candidate Gibran Rakabuming Raka, son of President Joko Widodo
Image caption,Critics believe Mr Gibran, if elected as vice-president, would simply serve as a proxy for his father

The president had earlier rubbished allegations that he was seeking to build a dynasty, telling the BBC in 2020: “If I directly appointed my family, or my son, as a minister, that’s a political dynasty. But if they participate in elections, it’s the people who decide. Not Jokowi.”

Foreign policy track record

Mr Widodo will also be remembered for his work to assert Indonesia’s presence on the global stage, despite early criticism that he had little experience in foreign policy.

It was on Indonesian soil that US President Joe Biden and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping met for the first time as leaders of their countries – during the G20 summit in Bali in November 2022.

Indonesia was the first country in Asean (the Association of South East Asian Nations) to assume the G20 presidency.

During its tenure, Mr Widodo also offered to broker peace between Russia and Ukraine. His visits to both countries in June 2022 was the first by an Asian leader since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February of that year.

Those efforts made little headway, but he managed to push the G20 member states to adopt a joint declaration condemning the invasion – a feat for someone who has maintained throughout his tenure that diplomacy is not his forte.

This was also an opportunity for Mr Widodo to show Indonesians that he was trying to tackle the country’s food crisis at its source. Indonesia is dependent on Ukraine for wheat and Russia for fertiliser.

Closer to home, Mr Widodo had sought to use Asean to push for peace amid Myanmar’s bloody civil war, although that too has achieved little so far.

The Whoosh high-speed train
Image caption,One of Mr Widodo’s legacy infrastructure projects is a Jakarta-Bandung high-speed train named ‘Whoosh’

Indonesia’s wealth of natural resources makes it valuable to global powers. Late last year, it strengthened ties with the US after Mr Widodo visited President Biden in the White House, despite the countries’ differing views on the war in Gaza.

Indonesia has also cultivated closer ties with China under Mr Widodo’s leadership. Large Chinese investments have created jobs and diversified Indonesia’s economy.

However an influx of Chinese money and workers – Beijing pledged $21.7bn in new investments last September to strengthen economic and political ties – have also stirred discontent among Indonesians. Many worry that their country will be caught in a debt trap.

Mr Widodo’s legacy may be tainted by his perceived failure to entrench the democratic values he first campaigned for, but his administration has strengthened Indonesian’s economy and its international profile.

Based on his current approval ratings, he will be stepping down as Indonesia’s most popular president.