Peaceful Transition of Power Key for Indonesia

Published: 31st July 2014 06:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 30th July 2014 11:55 PM   |  A+A-

After taking two weeks to count 135m ballots from 480,000-odd polling stations across the vast archipelago, Indonesia’s election commission has confirmed that Joko Widodo has been elected president. He will be the first president of the world’s third largest democracy without connections to the military or the political elite. His challenger, Suharto-era general Prabowo Subianto, has refused, however, to concede defeat and challenged the election in the constitutional court. The verdict is expected in August, but most analysts don’t expect the election outcome to change.

However, even if Prabowo is unsuccessful in getting himself into the presidential palace, his post-election actions are going to make a potential Jokowi presidency much harder than it otherwise would have been. If Jokowi really wants to make a break from politics as usual, curbing the power of tycoons and other Suharto-era big guns, he will have an enormous task on his hands. Whether he will succeed or not remains in the womb of time, but there is little doubt that he has aroused considerable hope in the country and outside because he is so markedly different from his predecessors like the flamboyant Nehru-era freedom fighter Sukarno and the dour military dictator, Suharto, who assumed power in 1967 after a bloodbath in which the communists were wiped out.

Although a protégé of Sukarno’s daughter, Megawati Sukarnoputri, who was president herself in the period of transition from dictatorship to democracy after Suharto’s death, Jokowi rose from humble beginnings as a furniture seller to be the governor of Jakarta. His winning margin of 8.3m votes testifies to his popularity, but Prabowo’s defiance on the grounds of the use of unfair means in the polls suggests he is unwilling to let go of the trappings of autocracy. Such intransigence bodes ill for Indonesia, whose reputation for peaceful transitions of power in recent years remains intact. It is hoped this will continue.

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