Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Don't expect the Jokowi presidency to be smooth.

He will not be the messiah that some people have made him out to be. He will also most probably not be a great president; Jokowi will have trouble relating his style of governance on the ground to the national level.

No one has tried what he is doing before.

But while the support of the people may be crucial in winning in an election, it won't be of much use to the new president when he tries to win over a hostile parliament.

Jokowi is going to face internal challenges in the coalition.

 President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono held a 70% majority in parliament and it didn't help him at all. Mr Widodo will try to engage parliament directly rather than building coalitions beforehand but that will be a challenge.

That's because Widodo's coalition of parties currently holds about a third of the seats in the Indonesian parliament, in comparison to his rival Prabowo Subianto's coalition which has around two thirds of the seats.

Economic challenges

High on the list of Widodo's priorities will be to handle Indonesia's economy - South East Asia's largest - and to tackle the politically-sensitive issue of fuel subsidies. Indonesia spends around $20b (£11.7b) every year subsidising fuel for its citizens, making its petrol amongst the cheapest in the world.

During his campaign,Widodo had promised to phase out these subsidies but that's not going to be easy. Similar efforts by previous presidents have proved messy and chaotic, resulting in nationwide street protests. Widodo will need all the love and support of those who elected him into power if he is to carry out these challenging but critical reforms for his country.

Widodo will also have to steer a slowing economy back to good health. Indonesia has been suffering from the end of the commodity boom - which means that it's no longer making as much money as it did when coal prices were sky high.

He's also got to reach out to foreign investors to help rebuild confidence in South East Asia's largest economy, without aggravating his local supporters who believe that Indonesia's assets have been sold to overseas buyers for a pittance.

The key to his success will be his cabinet. It's not clear yet what kind of men and women will form his new government, but judging from his appointments when he was Jakarta governor, ministers will get posts based on their track record - and not political affiliations.That makes for an entirely new style of governance in Indonesia - one that many members of the business and political elite may have difficulty getting used to.

There's no denying that Jokowi is a hero for many Indonesians who see him as the panacea to all their ills. His biggest challenge, however, will be living up to those expectations.

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