What lies ahead for Jokowi

JAKARTA, Aug 24 — The judges have spoken and Indonesia’s longest-running election saga is finally over, at least constitutionally.

The Constitutional Court’s verdict on Thursday dismissed Prabowo Subianto’s legal challenge to the General Elections Committee, reaffirming the victory of Joko Widodo and his running mate Jusuf Kalla.

Though begrudgingly, the Prabowo camp accepted the verdict with vague promises — not of reconciliation though — to pursue other legal and political avenues in the future. But safe to say, this is the typical tough talk of a sore loser.

Indonesians are ready to move on, because time is precious and expectations are mounting for the president elect and his deputy to deliver on their electoral promises.

There were concerns whether Jokowi has the political weight and savvy to form a coalition government; keeping a tight reign on the soon to be sworn in parliament, which is controlled 61 per cent by Prabowo’s Red-White Coalition of parties. Failing to do so, his administration will be sapped of its effectiveness by a combative parliament.

Indonesia’s president-elect Joko Widodo arrives on stage to address supporters at an event in Jakarta August 22, 2014. — Picture by Reuters
Indonesia’s president-elect Joko Widodo arrives on stage to address supporters at an event in Jakarta August 22, 2014. — Picture by Reuters

But an apparent shift among parties in the Red-White coalition looks to be in Jokowi’s favour. Golkar and the Muslim-based United Development Party are plotting the ouster of their respective chairman for someone more accommodating to the upcoming government.

There are reports that the Democratic Party of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and the National Mandate Party (PAN) of Prabowo’s running mate Hatta Radjasaare are also moving towards Jokowi.

Jokowi’s real challenge is not politics, however. With a strong public mandate, he is under pressure to meet voters’ expectation and he may disappoint many, not unlike US President Barack Obama in his first term.

The grocery list of problems that he has to tackle includes jumpstarting a slowing economy, narrowing the wealth gap, putting in place an improved education system to raise human development and to face global competition, providing affordable health care, reforming the highly resistant bureaucracy and coming up with some initiatives to reduce corruption.

The most obvious problem staring him in the face is the fiscal limitation he may be left with by outgoing President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, due to an increase in the costly public fuel subsidies. 

In his annual state of nation address before parliament a day before the August 17 Independence Day, Yudhoyono unveiled a budget that includes a 4 per cent raise in energy subsidies. At 18 per cent (amounting to US31 billion or RM98 billion) of the total spending, it leaves Jokowi with little fiscal space to implement his own programmes to boost growth.

The budget sets a growth target at 5.6 per cent for 2015, higher than this budget year’s target set of 5.1, but lower than Jokowi’s aim of 7 percent. About 80 per cent of the energy subsidies are enjoyed by the middle class that own cars and motorbikes, and economists have repeatedly stressed that the funds should be used for the much-needed infrastructure development to boost growth.

All these come against the backdrop of an economic slowdown, which at 5.1 percent in the second quarter this year was the country’s slowest in five years.  The current Parliament will deliberate the budget and pass the final budget before their term ends at the beginning of October.

The president-elect was clearly not pleased with the big fuel subsidies saying the money could’ve been used more efficiently to provide fiscal rooms for reforms.

The good news is that Jokowi realises the urgent need to have a slim but highly effective and focused government, and his transitional team has been working hard to formulate the structure and strategy of his administration.

But this has not come without criticism either. His choice of the very competent Rini Soemarno, a former Cabinet minister and company executive, to lead the transitional team raised the eyebrows of some of Jokowi’s supporters. Her closeness to former president Megawati Soekarnoputri, who chairs Jokowi’s Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), is suspected as a way for Megawati to control the administration.

Others are wary that his security adviser Hendropriyono, the former state intelligence chief who allegedly perpetrated some human rights abuses, proves a setback to Jokowi’s commitment to protect human rights.

Even the most popular politicians cannot please all of their supporters, as Obama has shown, but a little goes a long the way. Steady progresses of achievable programmes will ensure his supporters that they did not vote for the wrong candidate.

*This is the personal opinion of the columnist.

Related Articles