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Indonesia gets a new president & a boost for democracy

by Ross Taylor, Indonesia Institute

2014-07-23

The Indonesian Electoral Commission has now confirmed that the Jakarta Governor and former small-scale businessman, Joko Widodo will be Indonesia’s next president. He will be sworn in on 20th October.

The announcement came as the only other candidate, former Suharto army general, Prabowo Subianto, dramatically quit only hours before the formal election result was announced.

Despite the withdrawal of Prabowo, in choosing Joko Widodo (or ‘Jokowi’ as he is known), with the final vote at 53%-47%, Indonesians have chosen a continuance of true democracy for their country of 240 million people and resisted the temptation to revert to a more authoritarian rule.

Whilst the result is a good outcome for Indonesia and the region, it must be remembered that 47% of Indonesian voters actually voted for Prabowo to lead their country. This is of some concern and will place enormous pressure on the new president with nearly half the nation wanting a more authoritarian leadership and the other half (who voted for Jokowi) with very high and immediate expectations of the new president, including stamping out corruption and improved living standards.

Jokowi’s running mate and incoming vice-president, Jusuf Kalla will be critical in developing a successful Jokowi presidency. Kalla has held the national vice-presidency before, and has wide experience in international affairs and business, so they should complement each other well as our northern neighbour seeks to address a number of major social and economic issues including education, communication, health, food, energy and importantly, infrastructure. With 10’s of million people still living in poverty, the challenges are large.

The appointment of Indonesia’s new foreign minister will be watched closely. Jokowi may be tempted to keep the incumbent, Dr. Marty Natalegawa, in the job, although this is not a sure bet. The new president may prefer to cut all links with the outgoing president, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

The presidential election should however, be seen as a major win for democracy. Creating a democracy is one thing; keeping it alive and vibrant is quite another. Whilst Indonesians look at the disintegration of the democratic dream in the ‘Arab Spring’ countries, they can take considerable pride in pointing out that this sprawling archipelago, with so many ethnic and religious groups, has quietly held onto its democratic principles and structure.

And that's good for Indonesia, the region and what is at present, a very fragile world.

 


 
 
 
 

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