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Indonesia’s new president goes through a rough patch; it could last a while
Jan 31st 2015 | From the print edition of The Economist Jan 15th 2015
IN POLITICS the world over it is often not the other side you have to worry about, but your own. In October Joko Widodo was inaugurated as Indonesia’s president, with parliament controlled by an opposition of bad losers threatening to thwart all his plans. Yet by this week, when Jokowi, as he is known, marked 100 days in office, his biggest headaches were caused by his own party, the PDI-
At the centre of it is Budi Gunawan. The policeman had been under a cloud since 2010 because his bank balance bulged suspiciously for a humble cop’s. But on January 9th Jokowi nominated him as chief of police. Days later he was named a suspect by the independent anti-
This seemed to offer the president a face-
Mr Budi’s appointment also mocked hopes that Jokowi would make promotions on merit. A businessman from a humble background, Jokowi worked his way to power through winning direct elections, first as mayor of his Javanese hometown, Solo, then as governor of the capital, Jakarta. He promised a break from the old politics of patronage and cronyism. The promise was already dented by the cabinet he named. Almost half the posts went to political allies rather than to talented technocrats. Mr Budi is very close to Megawati Sukarnoputri, daughter of Indonesia’s independence leader, a former president and leader of the PDI-
It also suggested that Jokowi is not his own boss, and that Ms Megawati still calls the important shots. Part of Jokowi’s appeal—that he is a political outsider—can also appear a weakness, making him look dependent on the PDI-
Meanwhile, Jokowi has also been disappointing some of the many foreign governments that welcomed his election victory last year over Prabowo Subianto, a former general and avowed economic nationalist. He has rejected appeals for clemency for 64 drug smugglers and manufacturers sentenced to death. Six, including five foreigners, were executed by firing squad on January 17th. Two of their governments—Brazil’s and the Netherlands’—withdrew their ambassadors from Jakarta in protest. Among those still on death row are Australian, British and Chinese citizens. And the way Jokowi has chosen to rid Indonesian waters of the scourge of poaching by foreign fishermen—blowing up their vessels—has also caused some concern.
At home, these hardline policies are popular. Mr Jokowi appealed to voters not as a soft-
It is also distracting attention from his rapid achievement of some economic-
Change you can believe in
The activists who helped propel Jokowi to power, however, hoped for much more than an honest president with some good policies. They saw in his election victory the final, critical step in Indonesia’s evolution from the 32-
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