Thursday 23 October 2014

Indonesia’s new president: Taking the reins

Nguồn tin:

Oh what joy it is to ride

EVERYONE loves a politician with a common touch—except that politician’s security detail. After Joko Widodo, or Jokowi, was inaugurated as Indonesia’s seventh president, he and his vice-president, Jusuf Kalla, rode through central Jakarta to the presidential palace in an open horse-drawn carriage, their wives following along behind. Tens of thousands of well-wishers lined the path, banners saluting “the people’s president”. As ever, he reached out to them. Only the security men in black suits failed to look elated.

More hard-bitten observers did not share the crowd’s optimism. They set the simple, almost innocent demeanour of this grass-roots politician against the ruthlessness of the old guard he beat. It is determined to fight hard to preserve its wealth and privilege—and parties sympathetic to his opponent in the presidential election, Prabowo Subianto, control the legislature. Such observers are writing Jokowi off as a decent man but a political naif.

Yet the demeanour masks canny political instincts. Since Jokowi’s victory in July, Mr Prabowo has attempted to frustrate him at every turn, starting by claiming spuriously that the election had been stolen. Leading up to the inauguration, Mr Prabowo, a former son-in-law of Suharto, the late dictator, along with Aburizal Bakrie, a tycoon who heads Suharto’s former party, threatened to boycott the ceremony. But Jowoki ran rings around them by making them look petty. They attended the inauguration after all, and when Jokowi mentioned Mr Prabowo by name, the former special-forces general snapped to attention and saluted his new commander-in-chief. The battles with the old guard are only beginning. But Jokowi intends to appeal to ordinary Indonesians if the parliament obstructs attempts to transform both the country’s corrupt, grasping politics and the lives of ordinary Indonesians. A common touch can pack a punch.

Jokowi promises to “move together to work, work and work.” He wants to offer free health care and 12 years of schooling to every Indonesian. More tourism across the archipelago can generate jobs. He says ports are in urgent need of improvement. And he thinks a little investment directed at 20m Indonesians dependent on small-scale fisheries would go a long way. Above all, he must cut the fuel subsidies that consume a fifth of the budget, redirecting the savings to education and the like. Falling oil prices give him the opportunity.

But first he needs a cabinet, and despite repeated assurances that one was imminent, as The Economist went to press its line-up had yet to be announced. Partly, the delay was because in the Javanese political way, nothing is brisk—even Suharto took forever over his cabinets. Partly, the new president has been trying to chop and change an unwieldy number of ministries: some want a new ministry for maritime affairs and port works, for instance.

But mainly, Jokowi has to balance a desire for a technocratic government in key areas such as finance and resources with the many demands for seats coming from his Indonesian Party of Democratic Struggle, the PDI-P. Its matriarch is Megawati Sukarnoputri, daughter of Indonesia’s founder, and room will presumably be found for her daughter. Not all potential cabinet appointees are placemen or hacks. But the names of several have been cause for concern when brought to the anti-corruption commission, charged with vetting a new cabinet—another source of delay.

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