When Joko Widodo won the fiercely-contested presidential election last year, he was seen by millions of Indonesians as a leader who could shake things up for the better, a sentiment reflected on the cover of Time magazine’s October 15 edition titled “A New Hope”.
But six months after he took office as the seventh Indonesian president, hopes are slowly fading, with Indonesians increasingly critical of what they see as Jokowi’s waffling and failure to live up to his campaign promises.
Critics who before the election accused him of being the puppet of Megawati Sukarnputri, the chairwoman of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle, now feel vindicated.
Megawati, who was president between 2001 to 2004, has twice reminded the former mayor of Solo and governor of Jakarta that, even though he is now president, he remains “a party officer,” remarks interpreted as an assertion that she is the superior.
It is believed that Jokowi consulted Megawati before making important policy decisions, including the nomination of Budi Gunawan- Megawati’s former adjutant who has been embroiled in corruption allegations – as the sole candidate for chief of the National Police.
The nomination was later withdrawn following a public outcry and the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK)’s decision to name him a corruption suspect.
The Budi Gunawan controversy and a series of other gaffes by Jokowi have raised questions about his judgement and determination to resist vested interests.
Tempo magazine reported that Jokowi’s decision to withdraw Budi’s appointment earned him Megawati’s wrath. In a speech at the PDI-P congress earlier this month, with Jokowi in attendance as a party member, Megawati said: “If you don’t want to be called party officers, you can leave”.
Reports said Jokowi had prepared a “strong speech” against corruption, but he was not given a chance to take the podium during the congress.
His latest gaffe was admitting that he did not read a decree he signed himself increasing down payment to 211 million rupiah on private cars for over 500 state officials.
Critics said the handouts were ill-timed considering that the people have been suffering from price increases.
Jokowi’s off-the-cuff approach to things has created the perception that he equates running a country as big as Indonesia to managing a small town or a province.
Jokowi’s crackdown on illegal fishing, including blowing up foreign ships found pouching fish in Indonesian waters and his refusal to show mercy to foreign death-row drug convicts is a departure from a decade of “thousand friends, zero enemies” policy of former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.
Many voters who are fed up by decades of endemic corruption and politics as usual and perceived Jokowi as honest and incorruptible are now disillusioned.
Jokowi’s approval rating has dipped below 45 per cent, according to a new survey conducted last month by Poltracking Indonesia, a private pollster.
About 44 percent of 1,200 people surveyed across the country are satisfied with the performance of Jokowi, while 48.5 percent are not satisfied, the survey suggested.
About 7.5 percent of the respondents could not make up their minds or declined to answer. Six months may be enough to gauge Jokowi’s performance, but it is not too late for him to stand up for principles.
Don’t let hope turn into despair.
Dewi Kurniawati is a co-founding editor of The Parrot