‘Mikhail Gorbachev’ running for office in Indonesia

Updated April 13, 2019

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This handout picture taken on October 10, 2018 and released by the Mikhail Gorbachev Dom Campaign team shows Mikhail Gorbachev Dom, who is vying for a seat in the Indonesian parliament, one of more than 245,000 candidates contesting the Southeast Asian nation's biggest-ever polls on April 17, 2019. — AFP/Mikhail Gorbachev Dom Campaign team
This handout picture taken on October 10, 2018 and released by the Mikhail Gorbachev Dom Campaign team shows Mikhail Gorbachev Dom, who is vying for a seat in the Indonesian parliament, one of more than 245,000 candidates contesting the Southeast Asian nation's biggest-ever polls on April 17, 2019. — AFP/Mikhail Gorbachev Dom Campaign team

JAKARTA: Mikhail Gorbachev is running for office in Indonesian elections next week, but it’s not the octogenarian ex-Soviet leader who helped bring an end to the Cold War.

The 32-year-old — full name Mikhail Gorbachev Dom — is vying for a seat in parliament, one of more than 245,000 candidates contesting the Southeast Asian nation’s biggest-ever polls on April 17.

The former environmental researcher was born in 1986, just as his Nobel Prize-winning namesake was embarking on reforms that led to the collapse of the Soviet Union.

How the Indonesian Gorbachev got his name was slightly less earth shattering.

“My parents were certain that they were going to have a girl so when I was born they panicked because they didn’t have a boy’s name ready,” the Jakarta resident said.

So he went nameless for a week until the couple spotted the elder Gorbachev’s name in a newspaper.

“My father thought it was a cool name and he was an influential leader of the Soviet Union so they thought let’s give our son that name,” he said.

The unusual moniker wasn’t easy for an adolescent Gorbachev, who still prefers his nickname Gorba.

But it helped him decide to enter politics after years of largely ineffective environmental activism left him frustrated.

“I realised that I needed to go into politics to see my (environmental) policies implemented,” he said.

“These days, I think the name works to my advantage ... People will never forget the name, even when they can’t remember my face.”

Published in Dawn, April 13th, 2019