Joko Widodo’s election in 2014 as Indonesia’s seventh president reflects a mood of change from Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s Indonesia. On the campaign trail, Widodo addressed this mood for change with a populist appeal to voters as a politician who listened to their concerns and would work to make their lives better. His greatest challenges as president come domestically. On this front, he must demonstrate to voters that unpopular decisions such as raising fuel prices are ultimately in their interests. He must also live up to his pledge of a new way of doing politics, despite appointing a cabinet broadly similar in composition to that of his predecessor. Internationally, Jokowi must answer expectations for a more influential Indonesia, but can do so by maintaining substantial continuity in Indonesia’s foreign policy settings. Nevertheless, Australia should not interpret the likelihood of continuity in Indonesia’s international standing and orientation as justifying a status quo approach to bilateral ties.
Dr Dave McRae is a senior research fellow at the Asia Institute at the University of Melbourne and an Associate in the Centre for Indonesian Law, Islam and Society. His current research interests include contemporary Indonesian politics, Indonesian foreign policy, Australia-Indonesia relations and regional security issues. He is the author of A Few Poorly Organized Men: Interreligious Violence in Poso, Indonesia (2013) and translator of Solahudin’s The Roots of Terrorism in Indonesia (2013). Prior to joining the University of Melbourne, Dave worked for the Lowy Institute for International Policy, The World Bank and the International Crisis Group. He writes and comments frequently in both English and Indonesian in the Australian, Indonesian and other international media.