Indonesia decides: World’s third-largest democracy picks a new chief

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Indonesia has more or less completed the election of a new president, Joko Widodo, former governor of the province of Jakarta, with inauguration scheduled for Oct. 20.

The elections, which began in April, took place without much world attention, even though Indonesia, a nation of 13,466 islands, is the world’s largest Muslim majority state, its third-largest democracy (after India and the United States), and the fourth-largest nation, with a population of 247 million.

The race in the end boiled down to two candidates, Mr. Joko, 53, and a former general, Prabowo Subianto, 62. Mr. Prabowo is the son-in-law of former Indonesian dictator Suharto, forced out of power after 31 years in 1998. The retired general has not yet accepted the results of the elections, even though Mr. Joko beat him by 8 million votes, with some 53 percent of the 134 million votes cast to his 47 percent.

Mr. Prabowo continues to say he intends to take the elections to the Indonesian Constitutional Court, claiming fraud, although observers have not reported any significant evidence of extraordinary fun and games in the process. The former general does, however, need to be taken seriously, given that the Indonesian military has in the past not hesitated to interfere in domestic politics.

Indonesia, in general, even though it tends not to play a large role on the world stage, has continued to raise the standard of living of its population through solid economic growth. It is a member of the G-20 group of nations, and in 2009 its then president, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, attended the G-20 summit in Pittsburgh.

President Barack Obama’s stepfather, Lolo Soetoro, was Indonesian, and Mr. Obama lived there for a while as a child, but as president has showed no special interest in the country.

Americans should salute Indonesia for the successful functioning of its electoral process, with parliamentary then presidential polls, particularly given the defective nature of recent elections in higher-attention countries such as Afghanistan, Egypt, Iraq and Ukraine.

Meet the Editorial Board.


First Published July 24, 2014 8:00 PM

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