Jokowi’s Hundred Days in Office

Spotlight

Djayadi Hanan evaluates the performance of Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo and lists his early achievements

Joko Widodo (Jokowi), the seventh president of Indonesia took charge on October 20, 2014, and has been in office for more than hundred days now. The election of Jokowi is considered to be one of the milestones in democratic Indonesia. It marked the transition, for the first time, from the first directly elected president to the second. Further, it is for the first time that Indonesia is led by an ordinary person who is not affiliated to established political families or members of the founders of the nation. The expectations from Jokowi are high, particularly from the public that believes that their leader can bring not only prosperity to the masses, but also, more importantly, can free the nation from the rampant and widespread corruption among ruling elites – both political and economic.

A look into Jokowi’s hundred days in office should not focus on his ability to tackle long standing problems given his recent entry into the elite, political circle and the very limited time spent in office. He can be evaluated on the transition of his administration, the delivery of his team, especially cabinet members, on campaign promises, and the expectations from his early programmes. Jokowi’s hundred days are characterised by some good early steps, some promising economic policies, but several challenges remain in the area of law enforcement and political management.

Smooth Transition

Jokowi’s early moves before he took oath as the president indicated to the public that he appreciates the former administration and the former president by making a special team for the process of transition from the administration of former president, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (SBY). This otherwise ordinary process was important because he was nominated by the Indonesian Democratic Party Struggle (PDI), which is led by Megawati Sukarnoputri, a former president who was defeated by SBY. Megawati has never accepted her defeat, thus creating a strained relationship between SBY and her. Jokowi’s move showed that he would not be swayed by such a bad relationship despite the fact that he was nominated by Megawati’s political party. This also gave an important lesson to the public that the transition from one administration to the other was smooth. The relationship between the former and current administration should also be established, even when the successor is the rival of the former president.

Another good political move was Jokowi’s willingness to embrace his former bitter rival, Prabowo Subianto, in the process of the presidential election. The 2014 presidential election, where only two pairs of candidates competed with each other, had put the nation’s voters into two opposing camps, leaving the nation divided. The presidential election campaign had been unprecedentedly negative, using all issues possible including religion, ethnicity, patriotism, and so on.

The vote margin between the two by Indonesian standards was also very narrow. Jokowi and his running mate, Jusuf Kalla, won only slightly more that 53 percent of the vote. Prabowo’s camp also seemed unwilling to concede until the very last minute of the counting process. There was anticipation that Prabowo’s camp would use the opposition controlled parliament (Prabowo’s supporters) to obstruct Jokowi’s presidency. Despite this, however, Jokowi was able to reach out to Prabowo before the inauguration day. Prabowo and his former running mate, Hatta Rajasa, attended the inauguration day and were praised by Jokowi in his reconciliatory inauguration speech. The transition set the tone for the implementation of all the agendas of Jokowi’s administration.

Cabinet and Early Performance

Jokowi formed his cabinet in accordance with the campaign promise that he would not make too many compromises with political parties that supported him in the presidential election. He instead promised to establish a small, work oriented and professional cabinet in order to speed up the agenda of taking care of ordinary and ‘little people’.

When appointing his ministers, however, Jokowi apparently could not avoid compromises with political parties. A slightly less than 50 percent of his 34 cabinet members are political party affiliates who were nominated by the members of his ruling coalition, Great Indonesia Coalition (KIH). It seemed that this compromise was still acceptable to the public. His approval rating after cabinet formation, according to a survey by Indonesian Survey Institute (LSI), was still more than 60 percent.

The economic team he appointed also found favour with the public. Most of the posts in this team such as coordinating minister of economy and minister of finance have been given to professionals with high credibility. However, Jokowi faltered while appointing the political and legal team. He appointed a former public attorney and political party affiliate as supreme attorney, a controversial decision as such a person was unsuitable to eradicate corruption and establish a clean government. During the campaign, Jokowi promised to accord top priority to corruption eradication. Most of the other members of the political and legal team are also from political parties without excellent credentials. Jokowi seemed to rely too much on political parties during the appointment of cabinet members outside the economic realm.

Doubts regarding the appointment of the cabinet were confirmed when the minister of law made a controversial decision with regard to an internal dispute of one of the political parties, the United Development Party (PPP). By the end of January, the president, hamstrung by the lack of capable political advisors and under pressure from the members of his ruling coalition, made the almost fatal mistake of nominating a controversial figure as the national police chief. The candidate was regarded by the public as someone without the impeccable record required for corruption eradication and a clean government, thus putting the president’s foremost agenda in jeopardy. The nomination not only caused a slight dent in Jokowi’s public support, but the month-long controversy consumed a great deal of the nation’s energy. Although the president finally cancelled the nomination, there is no end to the controversy as the new nominee is still in the process of confirmation by the House of Representatives. There is still a possibility that the House will question the president’s decision and delay the process of nomination.

Bold Decisions

Jokowi displayed great leadership while dealing with the issue of fuel subsidy. He took a bold action by lifting much of the subsidy, giving the government enough fiscal room to implement some important developmental projects. The fuel subsidy, which has consumed not less than 15 percent of the national budget, has not always reached the right target. By lifting most of that subsidy, the government can now allocate $20 billion for infrastructure projects, health and school facilities, and other people-oriented development. Just a few weeks ago, for instance, the president approved the start of infrastructure projects (toll roads and seaports) in Sumatra and eastern parts of Indonesia.

Oil and gas governance, a key focus of the economic team, has led to promising reforms in this sector, led by a highly respected and credible team including Faisal Basri, economist from the University of Indonesia. The reforms process will enable the government to deal with issues of high pricing and also alternative energy policies.

Minority Challenges

Jokowi’s leadership during the next five years will always be, to a great extent, determined by his ability to deal with several ‘minority challenges’.

First, the president is a minority in his own political party, PDIP. He was nominated by PDIP only because he was the sole candidate who could defeat one of the main political opponents of Megawati, Prabowo Subianto. It was a reality that left the party under Megawati with no choice but to nominate Jokowi as the presidential candidate. But this process of nomination comes with a price, as the party expects him to fulfil all of PDIP’s political interests. His inability to move away from this issue will imply that he would be perceived as a ‘dependent’ president, leading to erosion in his support base.

Second, as the president heads a minority coalition in parliament, the fulfilment of his agenda is always uncertain. Being new to national politics, Jokowi needs to ascertain credible ways to deal with this fact.

Jokowi must face these challenges head-on by displaying stellar leadership and adhering firmly to his top priorities of corruption eradication, job creation, and infrastructure development.

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Author

Djayadi Hanan

Djayadi Hanan is Professor of Political Science at Paramadina University in Jakarta

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