A president's unfulfilled promise

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A president's unfulfilled promise
Given the overwhelming mandate Dr Yudhoyono enjoyed on the back of two presidential elections, his has been an administration of timid decision-making and missed opportunity.

It was supposed to be all mapped out. A regal Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono cruising implacably towards the end of his 10-year presidency, anointing a successor at a grand inauguration ceremony - and then slipping into the political twilight as a wise elder statesman.

So much for well-laid plans. Battered by corruption cases - and with even the military joining in the general criticism - the Indonesian President's majority Democrat Party is in tatters and already looking like an also-ran in next April's legislative elections.

That Dr Yudhoyono has been a disappointment is an understatement. Given the overwhelming mandate he enjoyed on the back of two presidential elections, his has been an administration of timid decision-making and missed opportunity. His defenders point to the fact that he has maintained stability. His detractors say that is not enough for a country with so much promise, even if it has been blunted by corruption, self-interest and poor governance.

Once-muted criticism is now in full flower, focusing particularly on Dr Yudhoyono's failure to rein in religious intolerance and to ram through key reforms that among other things would challenge the power of an entrenched bureaucracy.

More recently, with the economy weakening and balance-of- payment concerns growing, he has presided over a range of ill- conceived nationalist policies that have sent shock waves through the mining, oil and gas and agriculture sectors.

"I'm afraid there's no big economic policy," says one senior government official, who points out that the Cabinet is slowly disintegrating as elections loom and Dr Yudhoyono relies ever more heavily on his in-law, Chief Economic Minister Hatta Rajasa.

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