Jokowi finds support in opposition camp

Jokowi finds support in opposition camp
President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo's non-intervention approach to the worsening standoff between the National Police and the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) has won support from politicians but criticism from experts who condemn his indecisiveness as divisive for the country.

President Joko Widodo, facing unhappiness within his own party over the delay in appointing a police general as national police chief, has found support from an unusual source - the opposition.

The latest development came after Mr Joko met his former presidential rival Prabowo Subianto, the key figure in the opposition camp, on Thursday.

It is a new twist in the latest battle between the police force and the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK).

Mr Joko had, on Jan 9, nominated three-star General Budi Gunawan as sole candidate to be national police chief. The move is reportedly to appease former president Megawati Sukarnoputri, the leader of his Indonesian Democratic Party - Struggle (PDI-P).

Four days later, the KPK named Gen Budi as a corruption suspect, prompting Mr Joko to refrain from inaugurating him. PDI-P elites, angry with the move, started piling on the pressure, with some threatening to impeach Mr Joko. In what appeared to be a retaliatory move, the police last Friday arrested KPK's deputy chief Bambang Widjojanto for allegedly orchestrating false testimonies in court in a local election dispute a few years ago.

Commenting on Thursday's meeting at the presidential palace in Bogor, political analyst Dodi Ambardi said: "The meeting with Prabowo amounts to an attempt by Jokowi to bargain with his own party elites. Jokowi does not have his own support base in Parliament other than the coalition led by PDI-P. If he loses PDI-P's support, he might consider jumping to the other side, but this is the least likely thing to happen."

The meeting took place amid reports that the PDI-P may withdraw its support in Parliament for Mr Joko's reform programmes.

The Joko administration is currently seeking parliamentary approval for the amended 2015 Budget, which includes massive spending for the construction of dams and power plants, as well as for various social programmes.

At the meeting, Mr Prabowo reportedly said he would respect whatever decision Mr Joko makes regarding the national chief post, be it sticking with Gen Budi or dropping him and naming a new candidate. Mr Fadli Zon, a senior politician in Mr Prabowo's Gerindra party, told reporters yesterday that the appointment of a national police chief is the President's prerogative and that Mr Joko should not entertain pressure in making a decision.

A source at the presidential palace said Mr Prabowo's clear message to the Joko administration is a form of "you scratch my back and I scratch yours" deal.

Vice-President Jusuf Kalla, at a meeting with national media chiefs at his official residence recently, shrugged off concerns that lawmakers may block the amended 2015 Budget.

Besides saying that approving the Budget was in everybody's interest, he stressed his confidence that most opposition party leaders who have an entrepreneurial background would be pragmatic.

The KPK-police stand-off has spawned both praise and criticism for Mr Joko. Mr Yuri N. Maru, a registered member of Indonesia's largest online community, wrote: "Jokowi is a good man, but the men around him are not. The KPK vs Police battle reveals who Jokowi's real enemy is."

While Mr Dodi expects Mr Joko and the PDI-P to reconcile eventually, he told The Straits Times: "If this does not happen, it would be the biggest political joke ever - a party that won the general election ends up in opposition."

This article was first published on January 31, 2015.
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