Endy Bayuni, the chief editor of the Jakarta Post, recently spoke at Columbia University, giving his assessment of the Jokowi administration at the halfway mark. Bayuni described how Joko Widodo (Jokowi) has gone from being an outsider elected president in 2014 to being the most powerful president to date in 2017. Initially, Jokowi struggled to gain support even from his own party, the PDIP (Partai Indonesia Perjuangan). Gradually, according to Bayuni, Jokowi employed strategic political moves and transformed his weak position into one of strength and now presides over the parliament, the cabinet, and even the national police.

Bayuni argued that key to Jokowi’s power play was enlisting the support of the Golkar (Golongan Karya) party and enticing its chairman, Setya Novanto, to join the governing coalition. Since Golkar holds the second-largest number of seats in parliament, Jokowi created the coalition he needed to advance his legislative agenda, including an ambitious tax amnesty program designed to improve tax compliance. This indicates, Bayuni said, Jokowi’s dominance, whether he has the blessing of PDIP or not.

Soon after his parliamentary success, Jokowi appointed Tito Karnavian as the Chief of the National Police, and announced a cabinet reshuffle, including the reappointment of Sri Mulyani Indrawati as Minister of Finance. Bayuni explained that Tito and Mulyani are both preeminent figures in their respective fields, thus restoring both public confidence and professionalism in the government. Jokowi himself has seen his popularity rating bounce back since 2014, when it fell well below 50%, to a current high of 67%.  Bayuni predicted that Jokowi, now feeling confident, plans to implement a controversial land reform law as a way to address the gap between rich and poor Indonesians. Bayuni also predicted this will provoke debate since land reform is associated with the communist agenda during the era of President Sukarno in the 1960s.

Bayuni’s analysis also examined the current campaign for Jakarta’s governor. Jokowi was governor of Jakarta before running for president, and after his victory, he was succeeded by his deputy governor, Basuki Tjahja Purnama (Ahok). Now, Ahok is one of the candidates in Jakarta’s gubernatorial election, along with Anies Baswedan (former Minister of Education and Culture in Jokowi’s administration), and Agus Yudhoyono (son of the former president, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono). In the first round of voting in February, Ahok and Anies won and will face off in the second round on April 19. Despite his popularity and 70% approval rating, Ahok, an ethnic Chinese and a Christian, has been attacked by hardline Islamist groups and his electability ratings have dropped dramatically. A coalition of conservative Muslim groups, led by the FPI (Front Pembela Islam), organized a series of anti-Ahok protests, accusing Ahok of insulting Islam, and insisting that Muslims must not vote for a non-Muslim. Nevertheless, Bayuni noted that local elections elsewhere in Indonesia remain relatively secular, “Jakarta, as the capital, is a special case, it cannot serve as a proxy.”

Bayuni said that Jokowi will face several other candidates in the 2019 presidential election, and that the outcome of Jakarta’s election will help shape the presidential race. He said the candidates might include: Puan Maharani (current Coordinating Minister for Human Development and Cultural Affairs and the daughter of former president and chairman of PDIP, Megawati Sukarnoputri), Agus Yudhoyono, and Anies Baswedan, regardless of whether he wins on April 19. If Anies wins, Bayuni said, there will be an awkward tension in the capital between Anies and Jokowi. Bayuni added that Jokowi faces a potentially huge problem over Setya Novanto’s alleged involvement in the electronic identity card (e-KTP) corruption case. If Novanto is implicated and found guilty, this will destabilize Jokowi’s hold on power and could damage his reelection campaign. For now, though, Jokowi remains Indonesia’s most powerful president.

Annabelle Wenas

Columbia University, Quantitative Methods in the Social Sciences (QMSS)