Indonesia on the knife’s edge

18 Jun 2014

The outside world should be worried by the possibility that Prabowo Subianto could become Indonesian president, but the biggest losers will be Indonesia’s own people

Indonesia’s presidential election on 9 July will determine not only the future government of the country but also the fate of its democracy. Over the past decade and a half, Indonesia has been the democratic success story of Southeast Asia. Thailand has lurched back to its tradition of military coups, and Malaysia and Singapore have languished under semi-democratic regimes, but Indonesian democracy looked like it was striking deep roots. Nobody would claim that the country didn’t have serious political problems – chief among them, pervasive corruption – but its many achievements include the evolution of a robust media, the sidelining of the military from daily political life, a strong culture of open electoral competition, and significant devolution of power and finances to the regions.

Now, the country faces a stark choice that could determine not only the health of Indonesian democracy, but perhaps even whether it survives. The two candidates running in this election embody very different aspects of Indonesia’s recent political history, and they promise to take the country in very different directions…

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