Second Time Around
The Jakarta Post
First loves are always the most memorable. But it is the second that usually works. Wiser, older and more experienced. The mistakes of the novice already made, familiarity and confidence ready to be harvested from first term pains already suffered.
Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono is sworn in today for his second (and constitutionally) final term as president. A mandate extended by voters as much for his accomplishments, as for the dearth of presidential mishaps and governmental malfeasance during his first term in office as the country’s first democratically elected president.
Many continue to debate whether Yudhoyono’s landslide at the polls was a measure of first term performance or the contrast of his stability compared to his predecessors’ lack of it. He certainly brought a measure of dignity and consistency to the tattered office of the president.
While detractors will continue to grumble – and appropriately so because democracy needs critics and a sturdy system of checks and balances – today Yudhoyono stands not only as head of the Democratic Party or a coalition which includes just about everyone, but as a leader of the world’s fourth largest country and the legitimately elected president of the world’s third largest democracy.
All these accolades point to the requisite much needed for the coming five years: decisive leadership of government action! Compromise is a natural part of politics, but too many concessions and indulgence would be weakening.
In his final term as president, Yudhoyono has exhausted all the excuses. He has the coalition he wants. The majority mandate from the polls. The kind of political pre-eminence lacking in the previous five years. The experience of presidential leadership. And most of all the knowledge that as someone who cannot be re-elected, he really has no political caveats to negotiate other than to provide effective, responsive and honest governance.
President Yudhoyono’s oath as president this morning is not about forging hope for the people, but a list of expectations to be fulfilled.
The prospect of reducing poverty, increasing welfare, access to health and the dignity of education in accordance with agreed Millennium Development Goals are binding targets that leave no room for failure.
Creating a vibrant economic climate that will spur growth, especially in the infrastructure sector, over and above the predictable levels of growth this is a priority must.
A strong political backbone to uphold the pluralist nature of the nation-state against the creeping claws of conservatism, is a necessity fulfilling the founding values of the republic.
And, not least, to enhance democratic consolidation to safeguard the long and arduous road which Indonesians have so painfully undertaken this past decade.
Something new to the incumbent he has never faced before will be the trappings of power. Now commanding a stronger coalition than ever, the old adage “power corrupts, absolutely” sounds a warning bell to be heeded.
We do not believe Yudhoyono has the selfishness of tyrants. We believe Indonesians elected a good man. But even the best of men (and women) would be afflicted by officious tendencies if left to rule unchecked.
It begins with the most innocuous policy, arcane legislation before criticism becomes labeled as dissent and the opposition are called enemies.
We are confident, for now, that Yudhoyono will take our democracy forward and build the platform for Indonesia’s emergence. The only thing worse than a president turned mildly autocratic, is one who can only offer the people in the next five years more of the disappointing same.