He is known as a great friend to Australia, but President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has few friends left among disappointed Indonesian voters, who are ready to punish his party.
Although he’s exiting office at a low ebb in the relationship, “SBY” will be remembered for his personal and consistent efforts to improve ties with Australia, and for reviving Indonesia’s foreign policy overall.
He cannot seek a third term under the constitution, but there would be little point anyway.
After giving SBY two chances, voters feel he didn’t live up to his big promises, like combating rampant corruption.
In fact, some of the biggest scandals have emerged from the Democrat party itself, and it looks set to pay in Wednesday’s legislative elections.
Polling released this week by the Jakarta-based Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) found only 5.8 per cent support for the party.
The survey put five parties ahead of the Democrats, but also found 45.8 per cent of voters were undecided ahead of the ballot.
Parties that grab 20 per cent of seats or 25 per cent of Wednesday’s vote can put their own ticket forward in July’s presidential race.
The new president will be sworn in later in the year.
The West Australia-based Indonesia Institute’s Ross Taylor says since 2004, Australia has had the benefit of dealing with a president who is genuinely interested in us.
Additionally, Vice-President Boediono studied at three Australian universities, while Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa got his PhD in Canberra.
Australia may find less goodwill in the next administration – its new leader less simpatico.
“Australia has been too complacent with SBY and Boediono, who both have a deep and genuine affection for Australia,” Taylor says.
“That’s all about to change with a new, and very domestically focused president.”
Perhaps the only time Australia has been mentioned in the past three weeks of campaigning has been in a TV commercial for the party tipped to win the most seats.
It shows Indonesia’s national dish, a cone of yellow rice called nasi tumpeng, and around it, side dishes including beef and potatoes, tagged “Australian import”.
The tagline is: “We plant what we eat. We buy from our own farmers”.
Food self-sufficiency is a long-held – and far off – goal for Indonesia.
Still, the ad reveals the leanings of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) and its star presidential candidate Joko Widodo, who this week said Indonesia must take bolder action on beef production.
His nearest rival, Prabowo Subianto, has also been making nationalist overtures.
The former special forces commander, who is accused of human rights atrocities, says his view on some foreign matters is “black and white”.
“For me, the sovereignty of … the Indonesian Republic is the final deal,” he wrote in a 28-point missive on Twitter.
“Every inch of land, sea and sky of our territory must be defended.”
One wonders how he would have responded when Australia confessed to having breached Indonesia’s waters during asylum seeker operations.
Meanwhile, at a US-style rally for the Democrats in Jakarta on Thursday, SBY defended his record of achievement over the past 10 years, saying he had led Indonesia to greater prosperity.
On corruption, he said the Democrats had been determined to weed it out, no matter where it was.
CSIS pollster Tobias Basuki says there are several factors behind the Democrats’ downward slide, but graft is the big one.
Two members of the party’s executive are now serving jail time for bribery, while Boediono has been named in a case examining the $US583 million Bank Century bailout.
“All parties are involved in corruption,” he says.
“But the one that gets blown up in the media … is the Democrat Party. It seems like it’s never ending.”
He says Indonesia’s foreign policy settings will remain the same after the July presidential election while the new government takes shape.
For Australia, this will mean starting from a low base, with no breakthrough yet in talks to reset co-operation after last year’s revelations that Australia was spying on SBY, his wife, and other confidants.