Calls for Jokowi to explain controversial decisions

Calls for Jokowi to explain controversial decisions
Indonesian President Joko Jokowi Widodo and his wife Iriana react as names are read out during their son's graduation ceremony at Anglo-Chinese School in Singapore.

JAKARTA - With his approval rating hitting the lowest point yet since his inauguration last month, President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo must ensure he provides the public with clear and transparent reasoning behind some of his recent controversial decisions, to avoid growing doubt over his administration, analysts have said.

Although Jokowi had discussed his plan to reallocate the fuel subsidy immediately after his inauguration, political researcher Rully Akbar from Jakarta-based pollster the Indonesian Survey Circle (LSI), considered that Jokowi's decision to execute the plan last week was "too soon".

"Technically speaking, many people at all economic levels are still unable to understand the reasoning behind the government's decision [to increase fuel prices]," Rully told The Jakarta Post on Sunday.

"Even after Jokowi stepped up to announce the hike himself, such a non-populist decision will impact on him as the highest decision maker."

Less than a month after assuming the country's highest political office, Jokowi increased the prices of subsidized fuel on Nov. 17 to reallocate ever-increasing funds spent on fuel subsidies to finance the government's development programs.

Speaking in a press conference at the Presidential Palace, Jokowi said the price of subsidized Premium gasoline would increase from Rp 6,500 (S$0.715) per liter to Rp 8,500, while the price of diesel would be raised from Rp 5,500 to Rp 7,500 per liter. Kerosene remained unchanged at Rp 2,500 per liter.

In a nationwide survey held from Nov. 18 to 19, the LSI found that 44.94 per cent of its 1,200 respondents said they were dissatisfied with Jokowi's leadership. The survey, held in 33 out of the country's 34 provinces, had a margin of error of +/- 2.9 per cent.

Jokowi and running mate Jusuf Kalla garnered 53.2 per cent of the vote in this year's presidential election, prompting Rully to consider Jokowi's current approval rating as "alarming".

Jokowi, who promised to support the battle against corruption and the judicial mafia, also surprised many legal and human rights activists by installing former NasDem Party lawmaker HM Prasetyo as attorney general on Thursday, instead of a non-political appointee.

Jokowi has also been criticised for keeping Prasetyo's vetting process under wraps.

The director of Gadjah Mada University's Center for Anticorruption Studies (Pukat) in Yogyakarta, Zainal Arifin Mochtar, urged Jokowi to publicly explain the reasoning behind Prasetyo's appointment, otherwise the public would assume that he had bowed to political pressure instead of a larger public interest.

"With his prerogative right, the President can use any method to pick his attorney general. However, it is also important for the public to know why their President chose him [Prasetyo] over other, highly qualified candidates," he said.

The President's declining popularity has also prompted movie producer KK Dheeraj to delay the screening of a movie titled Jokowi Adalah Kita (Jokowi is Us), slated to hit cinemas on Nov. 20.

"[We] have delayed the screening. The fuel price increases have heated up the political situation, so we will wait," Dheeraj said on the official website of the 21 Cineplex theatre chain.

Meanwhile, the Golkar Party faction at the House of Representatives is rallying support for an inquiry into the President's decision.

"We want to know the calculation [on the rising fuel prices]. We are gathering support for the inquiry from all party factions," said Golkar faction's secretary Bambang Soesatyo, as quoted by Antara news agency.

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