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One year on, Indonesians disappointed with President Jokowi

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Joko Widodo became Indonesia's President on October 20, 2014 REUTERS/Darren Whiteside/Files

One year on, Joko Widodo has disappointed electors, who expected a hands-on approach from a progressive president, particularly in tackling rampant corruption and boosting the economy.


A survey conducted by Indo Barometer shows public satisfaction with Widodo and Vice President Jusuf Kala has fallen to 46 percent in September, from 57 percent last March.

Joko Widodo, who is known as "Jokowi" swept to power on a wave of popular support for his hands-on approach and his image as a corruption-free, fresh face in a country long dominated by oligarchs from the era of former dictator, General Suharto.

The biggest disappointments regard several issues on which he had strongly campaigned on, such as fighting rampant corruption, one of the country's main problems.

He recently faced criticism over his nomination of a controversial figure as the new national police chief, a close friend of his, that most Indonesians believe to be corrupt.

"He made a lot of mistakes in his first year so I would call it a fisaco because it was actually something that would have been avoided," Yohanes Sulaiman, a political professor at the University of Defense in Jakarta, told RFI.

"It destroyed Jokowi's credibility in his fight against corruption. It made a lot of people angry really. He had set the bar very high, and people's expectations were too. We'll have to see what's next now..." 

He blames Jokowi for the nomination, saying it triggered a row between the notoriously corrupt police and the popular anti-graft agency, which accused the nominee of bribery.

Another point of his campaign was to reform the government's plans on economy.

He got off to a good start by cutting fuel subsidies that ate up a huge chunk of the government's budget. That in turn freed up billions of dollars to invest in the slowing economy.

But his attempts to attract foreign investors have been undercut by protectionist policies announced by his ministers, such as the abrupt cancellation of thousands of import licences.

"He has really increased spending on infrastructure, which I think a lot of economists hope will push economic growth. But he has a couple of problems: Global economic conditions are not particularly favorable," Dave McRae, a senior research fellow at the Asia Institute, told RFI.

"A lot of his budget assumptions are based on a level of growth that Indonesia isn't simply going to be able to achieve. And at the same time, you have Jokowi stressing that foreign investment is really important for Indonesia, yet his ministers pull out of deals. So I think you need a clearer policy agenda there on the economic front."

And on an international level, he started off by launching a massive anti-drug campaign within the country, and to show how serious he was, he has not succumbed to international pressure over the execution of several foreign drug convicts.

"He tried to deal with human rights problems, he released five political prisonners, he opened up Papua... But there are still 90 other political prisonners. There are still a lot of issues for foreign journalists going to Papua," Andreas Harsono, the Human Rights Watch representative in indonesia told RFI.

"He also ordered the executions of 12 death row convicts, this year only. Including Brazilian, Nigerian, Australian citizens, and still has a French man (Serge Atlaoui) on death row right now. These are problematic decisions, especially considering it's straining the relations between countries who are withdrawing their ambassadors."

One year on, it might be too early to see clearly where Jokowi is headed, but he undoubtely has a lot on his plate for the next four years.