"One is absolutely sickened, not by the crimes that the wicked have committed, but by the punishments that the good have inflicted." -- Oscar Wilde

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Indonesia: The honeymoon is over for Jokowi

Portrait of Indonesian president Joko Widodo by executed Bali Nine member Myuran Sukumaran in January 2015
Portrait of Indonesian president Joko Widodo by executed Bali Nine
member Myuran Sukumaran in January 2015
This time last year, Joko Widodo's supporters took to the streets to celebrate his victory in Indonesia's presidential election. He was hailed as the people's president, his win in the polls seen to signal a new chapter for Indonesian democracy.

The former furniture salesman and small-town mayor, who insisted on being called by his nickname, "Jokowi", represented a break from the stronghold of elite and military circles over the nation's highest position of power.

One year on, and the president has developed a very different reputation, both at home in Indonesia and internationally. Social media users in the world's most active Twitter-using country have in recent weeks adopted the trending hashtag #SudahlahJokowi (Enough already, Jokowi) to express their disillusionment.

Relations with Australia have hit a new low, with an ambassador being recalled from Indonesia for the first time. Meanwhile, the Australian public's feelings toward Indonesia have cooled to the lowest point in eight years, according to the latest Lowy Institute Poll.

No direct link can be made between Jokowi's weakening position and his decision to go ahead with the execution of death-row drug smugglers in January and in April. The president had already signed the execution papers last December, when he was still enjoying relatively high popularity ratings. However, the timing of the executions does suggest a political motivation to show his strength and decisiveness as a leader, and to recover public support.

Capital punishment has strong mainstream support in Indonesia. IThe decision by former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono​ to grant clemency to Australian drug smuggler Schapelle Corby was highly unpopular. By enforcing the death penalty for drug smugglers, and particularly for foreign drug smugglers, it is likely that Jokowi sought to distinguish himself from his predecessor and show his commitment to firm and fair law enforcement.

Unfortunately for Jokowi, this attempt to appeal for public support lost him a great deal of international support. United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon expressed regret over the executions, and urged a return to the moratorium introduced by Yudhoyono. Brazil and the Netherlands both withdrew ambassadors following the first round of executions in January. France and the Philippines objected to their citizens' scheduled executions in April, which did not eventuate due to ongoing investigations and appeals. In response to the executions of Australians Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran in April, Australia for the first time withdrew its ambassador from Jakarta, the country's biggest overseas diplomatic post.

Source: The Sydney Morning Herald, Catriona Croft-Cusworth, July 11, 2015

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