Monday, January 26, 2015

Indonesia Weighs In on Jokowi’s Poor Start

One poll shows that only 25.4 percent of those surveyed were satisfied with the president's performance

Jakarta. President Joko Widodo’s popularity was plunging sharply on the eve of his 100th day in office, which is today, while analysts scrutinize his cabinet’s poor performance obscured behind a series of increasingly scandalous policies.

Poll institute Puspol Indonesia said in its press conference last week that 74.6 percent of respondents were dissatisfied with Joko and Vice President Jusuf Kalla’s leadership in the first three months of their term in office.

“Only 25.4 percent indicated that they were satisfied,” Puspol Indonesia executive director Ubedilah Badrun said.

Among the policies that contributed to Joko’s plunging popularity was the subsidized fuel price hikes, where 44 percent of respondents said it was the wrong move to make amid falling global crude oil prices and only 20.64 percent gave their nod of approval.

“Most of the respondents, or 51.58 percent, were unsure if diverting funds from fuel subsidies would spur developments in more productive sectors,” Ubedilah said.

He added that Education Minister Anies Baswedan’s decision to suspend the 2013 school curriculum — despite its controversy — also appears to be unpopular, with 27 percent of respondents saying the change would create confusion, 19 percent claiming it would only be detrimental to both teachers and students, and 25 percent giving their approval.

“Of the ministers’ performance, only Maritime and Fisheries Minister Susi Pudjiastuti’s policy of sinking foreign boats is considered positive by the public,” Ubedilah said, referring to Susi’s aggressive measure to fighting poachers in Indonesia’s waters by foreign-flagged fishing vessels.

A total of 756 respondents from Jakarta, West Java and Banten were surveyed for the poll that took place on Jan. 6-16, three days after the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) named the sole candidate for the post of National Police chief, Comr. Gen. Budi Gunawan, a suspect over his “fat” personal bank accounts.

The KPK made the announcement mere days after Joko submitted Budi’s nomination to the House of Representatives and a day before lawmakers — with the exception of former President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s Democratic Party — endorsed the nomination despite Budi’s troubling status.

The drama surrounding the chain of events has deepened into a crisis since then, turning into a full-blown conflict between the police and the KPK.

Joko, meanwhile, has been widely censured over his failure to show appropriate support for the KPK, whose four leaders are now facing legal charges by the police on cold cases critics have seen as a systematic scheme to “criminalize and incapacitate” the antigraft body.

The public has understandably thrown their weight behind the KPK, a highly regarded institution deemed Indonesia’s last bastion of hope against systemic corruption; as opposed to the police, which vies with the House each year for the ignominious honor of being the most corrupt public institution in the land.

JG's latest poll results at 1:37 a.m. on Jan. 27, 2015. (JG Screengrab)

Results of JG’s latest poll at 1:37 a.m. on Jan. 27, 2015. (JG Screengrab)

Joko, meanwhile, has been seen as either directly or indirectly defending the police, believed by some to be led by Budi behind the scenes. The police general is a close associate of Joko’s patron, Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) chairwoman and former President Megawati Soekarnoputri.

Critics have slammed Joko’s perceived inability to defy Megawati’s orders even when the stakes are high — namely completely losing the public’s trust.

Observers had begun criticizing Joko when he announced his cabinet lineup in late October — as it is studded with political appointees, either those who are direct members of political parties under the pro-government Awesome Indonesia Coalition (KIH) or close associates of Megawati.

But although it is a direct deviation to his campaign promise of no horse-trading politics, observers understood Joko’s move to secure political backing in order to face the opposition Red-White Coalition, which controls majority seats at the House of Representatives.

More and more of his personnel picks, though, raised even more eyebrows, including the appointment of former National Democratic Party (Nasdem) politician H.M. Prasetyo as attorney general and, more recently, nine members of the Presidential Advisory Board (Wantimpres) — nearly all of who are senior politicians with the Awesome Indonesia Coalition.

In his first 100 days in office, transactional politics under Joko has already been seen by some as even worse than that under former President Yudhoyono. The former president had at least appointed real technocrats with vast experience in their respective fields as his Wantimpres members — although he reportedly more often ignored their advice — and he named no one with apparent political associations or legal problems as the attorney general and the police chief.

And now Joko’s decision to only “postpone, not cancel” Budi’s nomination, as well as his insistence that he should play fair in addressing the police vs KPK squabble — despite the political intrigues obvious to many, is increasingly seen as proof to his incompetence or lack of will to fight the pressures placed upon him by Megawati and other senior politicians.

A poll on the president’s first 100 days in office at the Jakarta Globe’s website as of Monday night indicated more than half of 1,181 respondents were dissatisfied with his performance — 38.9 percent considered it “very poor,” 12 percent deemed it “poor,” 19.3 percent called his performance “fair,” 11.5 percent said it has been “good,” 11.25 percent believed it was “very good,” while 7 percent called it “excellent.”

In comparison, the former Jakarta governor and mayor of Solo led popularity polls with more than 50 percent of votes — compared with some other presidential hopefuls — in dozens of polls conducted during the peak of his popularity in late 2013 and in the first quarter of 2014.

Lesser-known policies

While controversies and critics surrounding the police chief nomination, the tension between the KPK and police, and Susi’s ship-sinking policy continue to make media headlines, some observers scrutinized the Joko administration’s performance in sectors that have garnered less media attention.

Irwan Suhanto of the National Strategic Study Center criticized the performance of Joko’s economic team, citing its inability to bring prices of staple foods back to normal in the wake of fuel price hikes, even though the price of fuel was once again slashed on Jan. 16 following continued fall of global crude oil prices.

“This is really confusing. When the fuel prices were hiked, prices of staple foods automatically rose, too. But after the fuel prices dropped, the prices of staples have not lowered, afflicting the poor people,” Irwan pointed out.

He also scrutinized the lack of work done by the coordinating minister for human development, Puan Maharani, whose appointment for the cabinet post has been largely attributed to her status as Megawati’s daughter.

Puan’s office should be spearheading Joko’s “Mental Revolution” movement, which he had loudly touted during last year’s presidential campaign, “but where is this so-called revolution?” Irwan asked rhetorically.

He also scrutinized Industry Minister Saleh Husin’s allocation of a mere Rp 27 billion ($2.2 million) to supposedly support Indonesia’s shipbuilding industry, saying operating a shipyard alone requires at least Rp 100 billion.

“What does he want to do with the Rp 27 billion budget for the shipbuilding industry?” Irwan questioned, adding that he had told Joko not to hesitate if he is faced with the option of conducting a cabinet reshuffle should his minsters continue to fail at their jobs.

“Jokowi should evaluate the performance of his ministers in his first 100 days in office,” Irwan said, referring to the president by his popular nickname. “That is a form of responsibility to the people that have voted for him.”

Melli Darsa, chairwoman of the Alumni Association for the University of Indonesia’s School of Law, said Joko’s political appointments in the legal sector resulted in his administration’s inability to formulate a blue print on the national legislation program and of the new laws it must prioritize or old laws it must revise before others.

“Senior officials appointed in the legal sector simply don’t have enough experience and are thus unable to make proper contributions [to legislation planning],” Melli said as quoted by

“President Jokowi has been completely inconsistent with his [campaign] promises,” she added. By Jakarta Globe Jan 27, 2015




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