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Indonesia’s First Presidential Elections

The world’s largest Muslim nation went to the polls on Monday in its first ever direct elections for President, in a difficult climate. The three main candidates were incumbent President Megawati Sukarnoputri (the daughter of Indonesia’s founding President), General Wiranto, the candidate of the Golkar Party, which was the political vehical of long serving President Suharto, and also General Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, a late entrant who had been President Sukarnoputri’s Minister for Security until he resigned earlier this year.

It is hard to tell what the actual issues in the campaign were. To grossly oversimplify, President Megawati Sukarnoputri is offering more of the same corrupt, inept and incoherent governance, while General Wiranto seemed to be campaigning on a platform of corrupt, inept and repressive governance. General Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s platform of trying to have somewhat less corruption and incoherence in government has proved to be more popular, although not popular enough to get an absolute majority.

So what happens now is that General Yudhoyono and the second placed candidate will fight another run-off election on September 20.

What is really pleasing from a western point of view is that it has been an orderly and fair election, and also, Islamic fundamentalism is not a big issue in Indonesian politics. In a nation of this size, there’s always going to be the extremist fringe, but this election helps demonstrate that extremism is not a vote-winner in Indonesia. As an Australian, I personally am relieved to see this.

4 comments to Indonesia’s First Presidential Elections

  • can you name any muslim country aside from algeria where islamists have won big? the reformed islamists in turkey got 1 out of 4 votes, but scored because of first-past-the-post, while some of the semi-democratic arab states have large islamists blocks. but in the more functioning democratic muslim nations, pakistan, bangladesh, malaysia and indonesia, muslim fundamentalists have never done well. in africa, i believe the situation is variable, but the northern nigerian situation seems to be fueled by ethnic rivalries with the south….

    anyway, islamism is a problem, but i don’t think you have to worry about it at the ballot box. i think:

    1) watch out for its impact on a person-to-person, islamists are pushy and intimidating and they’ll force others to tow their line.

    2) they can do to a society what they do to individuals.

  • Anointiata Delenda Est

    I think Indonesia will be all right. In history, it had the misfortune to meet up with Arab traders on its Western shores, who imparted Islam. Being, thankfully, commercial, and seeing where the money was, the Indonesians initially adopted Islam. But it is skin deep. Now that the money is with the West, they are busily moving over to Western values, ie even more money. So bye bye Islam, give or take the odd jihad.

  • bodor

    Nice election. I assume, however, that the delightful social chaos that is Indonesia will continue relatively unaffected by it.


  • Mimi Shah

    For those who think Islam is on the decline in Indonesia-please check out the following sites-www.sultan.org or http://www.truereligion .com to know that this religion is spreading like fire.