Indonesian president remains popular despite declining freedoms and criticism of economic performance – benarnews
Indonesian President Joko Widodo enjoys an approval rating of nearly 70% as he enters his eighth year in office, according to a poll, although his government has been criticized for stifling free speech and for poor economic performance.
Wednesday marked the anniversary of the day the former furniture seller and ex-governor of Jakarta, known as “Jokowi”, was inaugurated for a second five-year term as president of the world’s largest democracy. Asia, October 20, 2019.
Jokowi’s job approval rating stood at 68.5% in September, according to the results of a poll by Saiful Mujani Research and Consulting (SMRC), a private pollster. It had scored over 70% in polls conducted before the COVID-19 epidemic hit Indonesia.
“When we ask them about the state of political, legal and security situations, there is a tendency to worsen things. But that is not necessarily reflected in public opinion about Jokowi, ”Edbert Gani, researcher at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), a Jakarta think tank, told BenarNews, commenting on recent polls by opinion.
Indikator Politik Indonesia, another pollster, estimated Jokowi’s approval at 58% in a poll released in late September.
On social media, the president is the target of both praise and criticism.
“A simple figure of leadership who is only committed to the national interest. May your good intentions bear fruit, Mr Jokowi, ”Diandra Sari, a citizen who is among his supporters, said last week via Twitter.
Jokowi’s job rating remains relatively high at this point in his presidency compared to that of his immediate predecessor. Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who also served two terms as president, had a popularity rating of 46.2% in October 2011, the start of his eighth year in office, according to a poll conducted at the time by the Indonesian pollster. LSI.
“Afraid to speak”
It is difficult to say how objective such polls are in gauging public mood and satisfaction with the performance of the central government, according to Ujang Komarudin, a political scientist at Indonesian Al-Azhar University.
“The political climate tends to be repressive and people are afraid to speak out,” Ujang told BenarNews.
Jokowi is Indonesia’s seventh president, but only the fifth since the archipelago nation became a full-fledged democracy after the fall of Suharto, a former army general and longtime authoritarian ruler, in 1998 Jokowi is the country’s longest-serving civilian president to date.
However, former generals and others with ties to the military – like Prabowo Subianto, the current defense minister and presidential candidate in 2014 and 2019 – hold prominent positions in his administration and draw criticism. human rights defenders.
According to Ujang, democratic freedoms in Indonesia have diminished in recent years under Jokowi.
“When people are critical, they are accused of insulting the president. The space for expression is being suppressed and that should not happen in a democratic country, ”he said.
Firman Noor, a policy analyst at the National Agency for Research and Innovation (BRIN), a state agency, concurred with this opinion.
“The public is now increasingly afraid to speak out. This is a situation that, in my opinion, public polls have failed to capture, ”Firman told BenarNews.
Authorities have been accused of increasingly using the Electronic Information and Transaction Act (ITE) to quell criticism. Under the law, online defamation and the dissemination of false information are punishable by four and ten years in prison, respectively.
Agus Sunaryanto, an activist with Indonesia Corruption Watch (ICW), said the Jokowi administration had also undermined anti-corruption efforts with a recent reshuffle of the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK).
The suppression of free speech has greeted public opposition to measures taken by the anti-graft body, Agus said.
“The digital attacks on journalists, activists and academics have been so massive,” he said.
Last month, 58 KPK employees and investigators were fired from their posts after failing the national perspective exam, a civic education test required as the agency moved from an independent institution to an institution reporting to it. the executive branch of government.
The amendments that put the agency under executive control were passed in 2019. They fueled street protests as well as accusations that the government was using the law to weaken the independence of the anti-government agency. corruption in a country known for its widespread corruption.
When he was first elected president in 2014, Jokowi ran on a platform to purge the government of deep-rooted corruption.
The SMRC poll suggests that public satisfaction with Jokowi’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic has recently improved, from 61.8% in May to 64.6% in September.
“In general, people still believe that President Jokowi will be able to pull Indonesia out of the crisis caused by the COVID-19 epidemic,” said SMRC executive director Sirojudin Abbas.
But Firman, the BRIN analyst, said the government only acted on an emergency after an increase in cases caused by the highly transmissible variant Delta in July. At the time, hospitals were overwhelmed with patients and the number of daily deaths reached 2,000.
The epidemic had calmed down in recent weeks, with new daily infections falling below 1,000 and deaths below 100.
“We could have taken advantage of what we have now six months ago, if the government had listened to scientists and experts,” Firman said.
So far, Indonesia has recorded at least 4.23 million cases of COVID-19, resulting in more than 143,000 deaths.
The SMRC survey indicated that 50.7 percent of Indonesians were satisfied with the government’s economic performance, down from 61.3 percent in May.
Public criticism of the administration’s management of the economy has been a constant thorn in Jokowi’s presidency. During his seven years in power, he reshuffled his cabinet at least four times, including sacking his finance minister in the first reshuffle.
Of those surveyed, 60.6% said their household income had declined, while 32.3% said their income had stayed the same.
“This assessment is stable compared to the May 2021 survey. There was no sign of a recovery between May and September,” Sirojudin said.
Gani of CSIS said Indonesians, especially those in rural areas, were more focused on economic issues during the pandemic than on hot political issues, such as passing the controversial job creation law. Critics of the president had said the law could undermine labor protection and environmental conservation efforts.
“At the moment, their main concern is their economy, which has been affected by the pandemic,” Gani said.