Source Pravda.Ru

Indonesia leadership questions still unsettled

Indonesia's president had a tough first year: The Asian tsunami killed more than 131,000 people. Polio and bird flu outbreaks strained the country's health system. Soaring oil costs threatened a budding economic recovery.

While Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's popularity helped him get through the crises, including this month's suicide bombings on Bali island, analysts have given him mixed reviews since his landslide victory in Indonesia's first ever direct vote for head of state.

"I think he has done quite well, but I wouldn't put it more than that," said Greg Fealy, an Indonesia specialist at Australia's National University. "A lot of times he could have done better. He's not given any leadership. He has been hesitant."

The retired 56-year-old general, who took office a year ago Saturday, won plaudits for his handling of the tsunami in Aceh and a landmark peace agreement in the same province, which for decades had been torn apart by separatist violence.

His decision this month to more than double gas prices to relieve budgetary pressures due to the high price of crude internationally was also praised by economists, and protests against the move quickly fizzled.

Still, many observers were disappointed with Yudhoyono's perceived indecisiveness and failure to push for more radical change in the word's most populous Muslim nation, especially given his large mandate.

Hopes were high when Yudhoyono took office on Oct. 22, 2004 after a chaotic transition to democracy following the end of the Suharto dictatorship in 1998. People were eager to see him make good on campaign promises to fix the economy, battle endemic graft and tackle the Islamic militants blamed for a series of deadly attacks since 2000.

But just over two months after being sworn in, a massive earthquake off the country's western coast sent 10-meter high waves crashing into Aceh, killing at least 131,000 people and leaving 500,000 million more homeless. I.L.