By Jakarta Globe
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
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
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
The drama surrounding the chain of events has deepened into a crisis
since then, turning into a full-blown conflict between the police and
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.
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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 Republika.co.id.
“President Jokowi has been completely inconsistent with his [campaign] promises,” she added.
This article originally appeared 27 January in the Jakarta Globe.