JAKARTA (The Jakarta Post/ANN): President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo has been criticised for making a series of impromptu public visits with the apparent aim of regaining public trust amid growing discontent over the government’s Covid-19 handling.
In one of the surprise visits, popularly known as blusukan, Jokowi went to a drugstore in Bogor, West Java, on Friday (July 23), where he found that antiviral drugs for treating Covid-19, such as Oseltamivir and Favipiravir, were out of stock.
After the visit, Jokowi called Health Minister Budi Gunadi Sadikin to express his displeasure, prompting the minister to direct the President to other stores in the area that reportedly still had Covid-19 medication in stock.
The lack of Covid-19 medicine, even in the country’s most populous island of Java, has called into question government assurances that the stock is sufficient.
The President’s visit to the drugstore came about a week after an impromptu visit to Sunter, North Jakarta, on the evening of July 15, where Jokowi distributed food and medicine to residents.
These were the latest of a number of blusukan that the President has carried out under the emergency public activity restrictions (PPKM Darurat) on Java and Bali, which began in early July. The country is in the midst of a second coronavirus wave, fuelled by the highly infectious Delta variant and the lack of strong mobility curbs during Idul Fitri in May.
The outbreak has stretched the country’s hospitals to their limits.
Not everyone welcomed Jokowi’s blusukan. Mardani Ali Sera, an executive from the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS), a member of the opposition, said it was a dangerous move that could attract crowds and potentially spread the virus.
Such visits, he added, were not a panacea that could instantly solve the country’s pandemic crisis.
“Things cannot be solved with blusukan. What needs to be done is orchestrated, real action on the ground,” Mardani said on Sunday.
Blusukan have been a signature move for Jokowi since the early days of his political career as the mayor of Surakarta, Central Java. The visits, usually conducted to get an on-the-ground view of government projects, won him a reputation as a results-oriented leader.
Padjajaran University political communication analyst Kunto Adi Wibowo said that while such appearances might have captured the public’s heart in the past, the move had failed to trigger a similar effect amid public demands for the improvement of government pandemic policies.
“The magnitude of the crisis is too great compared to the act [of blusukan] itself,” Kunto said on Saturday. Kunto added that it was a clear sign that the President was trying to take a shortcut to regaining public confidence following a recent slump in opinion polls.
An Indonesian Survey Institute (LSI) poll released on July 18 found that Jokowi’s approval rating had fallen to 59.6 per cent, down from 68.9 per cent in December 2020.
The latest rating was only slightly better than Jokowi’s record low of 57.9 pervcent in October of last year.
Public trust in Jokowi’s ability to handle the pandemic also fell – to 43 pervcent in the survey, down from 56.5 pervcent in a February poll.
For the latest survey, LSI polled 1,200 respondents across the country in late June, before the worst of the current case surge. Jokowi has faced increased criticism over the government's handling of the pandemic.
A hashtag calling for a change in leadership, #BapakPresidenMenyerahlah (#JustGiveUpMrPresident), recently circulated on social media.
Meanwhile, a widely shared online petition initiated by Anissa Wahid, the eldest daughter of late president Abdurrahman Wahid, urged the government to address the pandemic with a stronger sense of urgency. - The Jakarta Post/Asia News Network