Jokowi 'overcompensating' with firm stance on death penalty

Jokowi 'overcompensating' with firm stance on death penalty
Indonesia's President Joko Widodo.

Political analysts have said that President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo may be overcompensating for his indecisiveness in the standoff between the National Police and the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) by maintaining his firm stance on the execution of death-row drug convicts in facing pressure from the international community.

Political analyst Nico Harjanto of Jakarta-based pollster Populi Center said on Saturday that the month-long standoff between the KPK and the police had exposed Jokowi's acute indecisiveness to the public and now he was determined to improve his battered standing.

"President Jokowi is trying to show that he is also a force to be reckoned with. He's trying to make up for his vacillation in the selection of the next police chief," he said.

The standoff between the KPK and the police force started late last year after the antigraft body declared then-police chief candidate Comr. Gen. Budi Gunawan a graft suspect.

Although Jokowi issued numerous statements calling on both law enforcement agencies to ease the tension, it was not until late last month that Jokowi finally announced that he was replacing Budi with the National Police's deputy chief, Comr. Gen. Badrodin Haiti.

At the same time, he also suspended two KPK commissioners, Abraham Samad and Bambang Widjojanto, who had been named suspects by the National Police for petty crimes only days after the KPK named Budi a suspect.

While he was weighing his options in the KPK-police standoff, Jokowi has been adamant about executing drug convicts, saying that it was part of the country's "war on drugs".

The President has declined to grant clemency to 64 death-row convicts and has instructed that they be executed as soon as possible despite protests from the international community.

Although neither Jokowi nor the Attorney General's Office (AGO) have confirmed a date for the next batch of executions, nine death-row drug convicts have been transferred to the Nusakambangan prison island south of Cilacap, Central Java, where all but one of this year's executions took place.

Nico said, however, that it was unfair to put all the blame on Jokowi as he was only finishing what his predecessor failed to finish.

"The previous government postponed dealing with the petitions for clemency from all these death-row drug convicts. None of it was processed. This was because he [Former president Bambang Susilo Yudhoyono] had a 'zero enemies' policy and did not want to anger other countries," he said.

During Yudhoyono's 10-year tenure, 24 people were executed.

Meanwhile, an international relations analyst from Bina Nusantara University, Tirta Mursitama, said the onus was now on the Foreign Ministry to find a way to convince the international community to respect Jokowi's decision.

"The Foreign Ministry has to find a way to deal with the situation. It can't just wait for the President to deal with the tension," he said.

Dinna Wisnu of Paramadina University also said the Foreign Ministry must find a way to negotiate with countries that had citizens on death row here, away from the media spotlight.

However, Dinna cautioned that if Indonesia wanted to become a major international player, it should reconsider its stance on the death penalty.

"Internationally, the trend has been against capital punishment. At least 80 per cent of countries worldwide don't have it anymore," she said.

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