Yudhoyono, Susilo Bambang


Yudhoyono, Susilo Bambang
▪ 2006

      Indonesian Pres. Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, commonly known as SBY, had a strong mandate for pushing through reforms in 2005. He had won a landslide election victory over incumbent Pres. Megawati Sukarnoputri in September 2004, garnering 61% of the vote, to become Indonesia's sixth president and the first to be popularly elected. His election gave rise to high expectations, both within Indonesia and in the international community. A Western-educated former general, Yudhoyono was widely seen as possessing the personal traits and professional skills necessary to restore prosperity and stability to the country. He was fluent in English and well versed in economics, and his military background was seen as an asset in dealing with Indonesia's many security problems. He entered office with an ambitious reform agenda, which included promises to accelerate economic growth, crack down on corruption and terrorism, and strengthen democracy and human rights.

      Yudhoyono was born into a well-to-do family of aristocratic background in Pacitan, East Java, on Sept. 9, 1949. Following in the footsteps of his father, a middle-ranking army officer, he entered the army after graduating from the Indonesian Military Academy in 1973. He rose quickly through the ranks, a process assisted by his marriage to Kristiani Herawati, the daughter of a powerful general. As an officer he had the opportunity to acquire valuable experience abroad, undertaking the U.S. Army's Infantry Officer Advanced Course in the early 1980s and training at the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College in 1991. He also earned a master's degree in business administration from Webster University near St. Louis, Mo., in 1991. Yudhoyono eventually earned a Ph.D. in economics from the Bogor Agricultural Institute in Indonesia in 2004.

      In 1995 Yudhoyono served as Indonesia's chief military observer on the UN peacekeeping force in Bosnia and Herzegovina. He later was chief of the army's social and political affairs staff. Yudhoyono left active military service in 2000 with the rank of lieutenant general. From 2000 to 2004 he held high-profile cabinet posts in the governments of both Abdurrahman Wahid and Megawati.

      After his first year as president, opinion about Yudhoyono's leadership qualities and achievements was sharply divided. His admirers saw him as statesmanlike and judicious and undertaking reforms at a politically sensible pace. Some of his agenda had been implemented to promising effect. Yudhoyono had approved extensive anticorruption investigations, finalized a new peace agreement with rebel leaders in the restive province of Aceh, and succeeded in attracting greater foreign investment to Indonesia. Despite these advances, there were grounds for disappointment. In particular, Yudhoyono had proved highly cautious and rarely led public debate on contentious subjects, which led detractors to accuse him of political timidity. As a result, his public standing fell during 2005, though at year's end he remained Indonesia's most popular politician.

Greg Fealy

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Universalium. 2010.

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