The administration of Anies Baswedan and Sandiaga Uno broke the 100 day mark last week, triggering a flurry of media attention questioning how successful the pair have been at the helm of Indonesia's largest city.
The pair's detractors in the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) were quick to slam Anies and Sandi, accusing them of falling short of Jakarta's last three governors—all of them who were, conveniently, PDI-P members. And the administration's wider critics pointed out signs of a reversal of the city's fortunes, not its progress, like the return of the previously banned becak (bicycle pedicabs) and nasty floods downtown.
“We from the PDI-P faction would like to remind you that the previous three governors—Joko Widodo, Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, and Djarot Saiful Hidayat—all built a strong foundation for Jakarta’s structure," Prasetio Edi Marsudi, the head of DPRD, told local media. "They not only turned Jakarta into a modern and developing city, they also put Jakarta in the same league as other big cities in the world."
Anies and Sandi fired back in their own defense, with Anies, the governor, proudly saying he had implemented 29 programs during the first 100 days, including laying the foundation for the no-money down home loans program and shutting down the notorious North Jakarta "massage parlor" Hotel Alexis.
But Sandi, the deputy governor, was a bit less boastful, telling reporters that his team still had a lot of learning to do. Bureaucracy, after all, is pretty hard to navigate in Indonesia, especially in a city as big and complicated as Jakarta.
"We still have so much homework," Sandi told Detik. "In my opinion, this is not the time to pound our chests, because there are still so many problems in Jakarta that are getting more complex each day."
Complex is a bit of an understatement here. The city itself is literally sinking, the traffic is some of the worst in the world, and even the national government is thinking of abandoning the place for cleaner and greener cities out east.
So maybe 100 days really isn't enough time to judge anyone's progress in a city this difficult. After all, the whole notion has nothing to do with Indonesia's political system—it's a reinterpretation of a common trope used to judge the performance of the president of the United States. There, in the US, the 100 days thing makes more sense, because of the way that country's democratic system works. But here in Indonesia, our democracy is a different beast altogether, one where an incoming administration has to strike deals with dozens competing factions and political parties, all while working in a city where even basic things like a public water system don't work and corruption is endemic.
Then theres the fact that there just isn't any scientific reason why 100 days is a good measure of an elected official's success or failure in Indonesia, explained Sirojudin Abbas, a researcher from Saiful Mujani Research Center.
“The first 100 days is when the new leader still adapting,” Sirojudin told VICE. “How far can a leader manage his team when he still needs to be familiar with the culture of the bureaucracy?”
Anies and Sandi made 23 distinct promises that covered 154 work programs during their campaign last year. Some, like the shutdown of Hotel Alexis or the zero-down home loans program, already have some measures of success. But a lot of these victories were easy gets. Like Hotel Alexis, which had an operations permit that was up for renewal. The shut down was as easy as just not renewing the permit.
"Most Anies’ programs that have been executed didn’t need the approval of the regional regulations body [Perda],” Sirojudin told VICE. “It's reorganizing street vendors in Tanah Abang, revoking the previous motorcycle ban on Sudirman-Thamrin, and stuff like that. Those don't require a Perda. Anies needs to realize that a good program needs to be supported by Perda, and establishing one of those takes a long time.”
Take the zero-money down home loan program. It's moving forward, but not without a lot of criticism for failing to meet the standards of the central bank or come out with some clear legal language that supports the program. Without a Gubernatorial Decree (Pergub), the entire program could sputter and fall apart in the middle phase, experts said.
Then there's the rest of the Jakarta administration. Anies and Sandi might be at the top, but they are only two people in a bloated and sluggish bureaucracy that needs to work together if any program is going to be effective. Former governor Ahok spent a lot of time and energy to increase the productivity of Jakarta's civil servants, to the point that it probably made him some enemies.
Without a similar level of energy, the city's civil servants could return to their old levels of productivity—back to the days of not showing up for work for days after a public holiday, or showing up but then napping the hours away.
“Civil servants are career workers, not like governors who may be replaced every five years," Sirojudin told VICE. "Some civil servants might have worked for dozens of years. During Ahok’s administration, the performance of these civil servants improved compared to the previous governor’s time in office, so it’s Anies' duty to make sure his subordinators performance doesn't take a dip."
And while the media might be obsessed with verifiable successes or failures, the voters are often far less strict, explained Philips Vermonte, the head of the Researcher of Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS). Most voters are just happy to see their chosen candidate is trying to make a change, he said.
“It doesn’t matter if a program fails during the initial stage of the government," he said. "The most important part is that the official tries to fulfill his or her promises."
Every governor we've had has been a mixed bag. People praised former governor Ali Sadikin for investing in infrastructure, setting Jakarta on the path to become a major city. But he was also criticized for using taxes from legalized gambling to provide some of the funding and also turning a blind eye to a growing prostitution industry that still exists today.
Maybe it's too early to judge anyone's performance here. Maybe all of us, Anies and Sandi supporters or not, should just take a moment, ignore the press coverage, and wait to see what these two can really do before casting judgement, because, remember, 100 days is only 5 percent of the way through a five year term. There's still a lot of time ahead of us all.