Joko Widodo President gave a press statement related to his nomination of Cmr. Gen. Budi Gunawan to be National Police chief, at the State Palace on Jan. 14, 2015. (Antara Photo/Andika Wahyu)

How Jokowi Wasted His Mandate in Just 88 Days

JANUARY 16, 2015

A civil society coalition of anti-corruption activists, artists, and community leaders walk with their eyes closed in at the KPK building in Jakarta on Jan. 15, 2015. They support the Corruption Eradication Commission to examine alleged cases of corruption involving Cmr. Gen. Budi Gunawan and urge President Joko Widodo to cancel his nomination as chief of the National Police. (Antara Photo/Rosa Panggabean)

Jakarta. It probably began in late October, when Indonesia’s newly elected seventh president, Joko Widodo, announced his cabinet lineup. Critics noted that more than half of the ministers were political appointees — and most of them affiliated with his patron, Megawati Soekarnoputri, and the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle, PDI-P, that she chairs.

Most of his supporters forgave Joko’s apparent betrayal of his campaign promise not to base his appointment of cabinet members on political horse-trading.

They understood he needed the backing of political parties that supported his administration, under the banner of the Awesome Indonesia Coalition (KIH), to counter aggressive anti-democratic maneuvers by the opposition Red-White Coalition (KMP), which held a majority of seats in the House of Representatives.

The KMP was largely perceived then as the main threat to Joko’s presidency. Analysts called their loyal opposition in the House as exemplifying “vindictive politics,” following the bitter defeat of their candidate, Prabowo Subianto, in the July 9 presidential election.

Less than a month later, on Nov. 18, Joko raised prices of subsidized fuel, saying he did not mind sacrificing his popularity for the sake of saving trillions of rupiah from the subsidy, and reallocating them toward infrastructure development.

The Indonesia Survey Circle (LSI), which conducted a poll shortly after the hikes, found Joko’s popularity dropped, even among his own voters.

Only 48 percent of the respondents who voted for him in July said they were satisfied with his leadership; 42 percent said they were dissatisfied.

The LSI said most of his former supporters who began to abandon him came from low-income families living in rural areas, among those hit hardest by inflation as a result of the fuel price hikes.

Candidate for National Police chief Cdr. Gen. Budi Gunawan at the House of Representatives building in Senayan, Jakarta, on Jan. 15, 2015. (Antara Photo/Wahyu Putro A.)

Most of Joko’s more educated, higher-income supporters, meanwhile, seemed to stick with him, understanding that Indonesia needed to reduce its reliance on fuel subsidies, and that some of the subsidy funds would be better spent on “productive” programs.

The next major shock came as Joko appointed National Democrat Party (NasDem) politician H.M. Prasetyo as attorney general, to the outcry of antigraft activists, who argued the position should not be given to someone with a party affiliation.

Joko asked Prasetyo to quit NasDem, a member of the KIH that supports his administration, which he did.

Activists remain skeptical, however, with the justice and human rights minister position also having been given to a politician, Yasonna Laoly, of Joko’s PDI-P. That means those who are supposed to be at the forefront of Indonesia’s law enforcement are disturbingly partisan.

In December, the president provoked the ire of human rights activists, who accused Joko of betraying campaign promises of settling unsolved cases of gross human rights abuses. To activists, the first sign something was amiss was the justice minister’s approval of parole for Pollycarpus Budihari Priyanto, a former Garuda Indonesia pilot convicted of murdering rights activist Munir Said Thalib in 2004.

The murder has been linked to top officials in the State Intelligence Agency (BIN), then headed by A.M. Hendropriyono.

While Pollycarpus was believed to have acted on intelligence officials’ orders, Hendropriyono has never been charged in the case. Pollycarpus’s parole has been read as a lack of commitment to hold those responsible for Munir’s murder accountable.

Hendropriyono is now a senior political advisor to Joko.

The president further alienated rights activists when he refused to grant clemency for drug inmates on death row and ordered the Attorney General to dispatch the prisoners’ death sentences as soon as possible. Although drug trafficking is a crime punishable by death in Indonesia, Joko’s predecessor, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, had refrained from executing prisoners. Attorney General Prasetyo, however, on Thursday said his office was “preparing” to execute six of the inmates this Sunday.

Joko’s plummeting popularity reached its newest low with the recent nomination of Comr. Gen. Budi Gunawan as his sole candidate for National Police chief. Joko did not retract the nomination, submitted last week for approval to the House, even after the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) named him a graft suspect on Tuesday.

Antigraft activists’ understandable opposition to the nomination stems from transactions in Budi’s suspiciously “fat” personal bank accounts, in the words of a 2010 report by the Financial Transaction Reports and Analysis Center (PPATK), which identified Budi as among several police generals to raise the anti-money-laundering auditors’ eyebrows.

KPK chief Abraham Samad said the antigraft body had been studying the case since July last year, and it found several irregularities in financial transactions involving Budi.

Joko still refused to retract his nomination of Budi as the country’s top cop.

On Thursday, the House of Representatives endorsed Budi’s nomination in a floor vote in a plenary session. The only party to object was Yudhoyono’s Democratic Party, which said the selection process for a new police chief should be delayed following the KPK’s announcement.

Joko Widodo President gave a press statement related to his nomination of Cmr. Gen. Budi Gunawan to be National Police chief, at the State Palace on Jan. 14, 2015. (Antara Photo/Andika Wahyu)

Shame on you, Jokowi

Joko’s critics — and apparently former supporters turned critics — publicly decried the president’s latest controversial personnel pick on Thursday.

Musicians and other figures who volunteered for Joko during the election under his campaign’s “Salam 2 Jari” (“Two-Finger Salute”) banner wrote an open letter to the president on Thursday to criticize his choice of a graft suspect to head the National Police.

Salam 2 Jari was instrumental in galvanizing support for Joko’s presidential campaign, staging a concert attended by tens of thousands at Jakarta’s Bung Karno stadium on the final day of the election campaign.

The concert, coupled with a social media campaign, has been credited for his election victory, after an intense smear campaign against the former Jakarta governor and Solo mayor in the few months leading to the election day almost cost him the presidency.

“We are saddened to see Budi Gunawan’s nomination to be the National Police chief, in defiance of the KPK’s decision to name him a graft suspect,” Abdee Negara, the lead guitarist of legendary rock band Slank, said in his capacity as Salam 2 Jari’s spokesman.

“We know that this appointment is indeed your prerogative as the president. However, we are all hoping for a police chief with high integrity and a good track record. We suggest, Mr. President, that you fulfill your campaign promise to only pick those who do not have legal problems as public officials.”

The letter was signed by dozens of public figures, including political observer Fadjroel Rachman, prominent poet Goenawan Mohamad, singer Tompi, activist Shafiq Pontoh, and media figure Ulin Yusron.

“Salam 2 Jari volunteers remain supportive of Jokowi,” Fadjroel said. “But we disagree with B.G.’s nomination and his inauguration by Jokowi. I personally voted for Jokowi for one reason: to clean Indonesia from corruption.”

He added that under former president Yudhoyono’s administration, any member of the cabinet named a suspect by the KPK was immediately asked to resign, citing the case of former sports minister Andi Mallarangeng and former religious affairs minister Suryadharma Ali.

“Now someone already named a suspect will become the National Police chief? What will the world say?” Fadjroel said.

Activists’ last hope is that despite the House’s approval, Joko will decide against installing Budi as the new police chief.

“If [Joko goes forward with Budi’s] inauguration, I will continue to terrorize Jokowi by continually seeking to see him,” Fadjroel threatened at the State Palace in Central Jakarta on Thursday, prior to a planned meeting between Salam 2 Jari volunteers and the president.

The meeting was subsequently re-scheduled for another day.

The group threatened to take to the streets in protest if the president did not withdraw Budi’s nomination.

On Twitter, the hashtag #ShameOnYouJokowi became a trending topic in Indonesia on Thursday. Two anonymous Twitter accounts known to be supportive of Joko ahead of the July 9 election are among those who popularized the hashtag.

“There is still time to fix this damage, pak @jokowi_do2. Postpone the inauguration of B.G. until the case is solved!! #ShameOnYouJOKOWI,” @PartaiSocmed tweeted.

“Reminisce #99Movement volunteers’ memory in Pluit, in support of @jokowi_do2. Sad now seeing #ShameOnYouJokowi,” @Pskopdar_99 tweeted.

Other Indonesian netizens’ comments on Twitter [sic throughout]:

@eki_poetra: “Sir, are you awake or drunk? #ShameOnYouJokowi.”

@Nurreyzaputri: “#ShameOnYouJokowi I trusted you once. But I hate you for supporting corruption.”

@desy_ayu: “Don’t dash our hopes and dreams pak @jokowi_do2, and [don’t] make our fight [for you] all these times a waste.”

@AldilanoRendy: “I’m your supporter, bapak @jokowi_do2. please listen to our aspirations, the people’s aspirations. don’t betray us.”

@ruaien: “The plan to inaugurate a police chief who has been named a suspect is the joke of the century. Thank you, my President. #ShameOnYouJokowi.”

Political analysts called on Joko withdraw the nomination following the House’s vote to approve it, saying he should not bow to political pressure at the expense of the people’s trust in him.

Budi is a known close aide to PDI-P chairwoman Megawati, serving as her adjutant during her presidency from 2001 to 2004. Joko’s nomination of Budi is widely believed to be based on her wishes, although the PDI-P has vehemently denied that this is the case.

“Don’t squander the people’s trust. Jokowi will really regret this if he neglects the people’s rejection of B.G.’s nomination as National Police chief,” said the Indonesian Institute of Sciences’ (LIPI) Siti Zuhro.

“This isn’t too late yet. Jokowi must wake up; he must cancel [Budi’s] nomination, rather than risking hurting the people’s feelings with a decision [to install Budi as the police chief],” she added.

LSI founder Denny J.A., whose tweet in July in support of Joko’s candidacy was named by Twitter the second-most globally shared tweet of 2014 — with more than a million retweets — also criticized Budi’s nomination in strong terms.

“Jokowi is losing the public trust concerning his commitment to upholding clean governance, even though that was part of his campaign. How would the public believe that Joko is in favor of clean government if he appoints a corruption suspect at the top law enforcement position?” Denny said through his Twitter account @DennyJA_WORLD.

“The public’s hopes for Joko will soon evaporate. He was once believed to be different, but now he’s just an ordinary politician. Jokowi was once [part of] us [the people]. Now, if Jokowi proceeds with inaugurating a corruption suspect as the National Police chief, Jokowi will be them [politicians who are enemies of the people].”

However, Muradi, a political analyst at Bandung’s Padjajaran University, said Joko should not bow to public pressure and backpedal on Budi’s nomination.

“[The president] must proceed with [Budi’s] inauguration. This is to maintain the reputation of the presidential institution, that it cannot be dictated to; because Budi Gunawan’s nomination is already an ongoing process,” he said.

Muradi also said the KPK’s decision to name Budi a graft suspect reflected the nonpartisan antigraft body’s “politicization.”

“The KPK should have announced his status as a suspect before Joko submitted the nomination or while Budi was still serving [in his previous position], if they think he’s unclean,” Muradi said.

“If the KPK wants to continue pressing its case against him, then it can do it after Budi is inaugurated as the police chief, as long it’s got enough evidence.”

Vice President Jusuf Kalla defended Budi’s nomination, saying Joko’s administration did not care about its popularity — an assertion nobody is disputing.

“We’re not working for popularity. We’re working to ensure development for people,” Kalla said at his Jakarta office on Thursday.

Further Coverage

Editorial: With Budi, Indonesia at a Crossroad Now

In War Over Top Cop, KPK Faces Familiar Threats